December 12, 2019

Philharmonic Version of the Radetzky March

© Dieter Nagl

Johann Strauß' Radetzky March, op. 228, was first performed in a Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert on January 1, 1946. Josef Krips was the conductor, and according to a note in the Vienna Philharmonic archives, the march was performed before the Blue Danube Waltz as a first encore. The sheet music used in 1946, available in the orchestra's archives, was an arrangement by Leopold Weninger, published by the publishing house Benjamin in Leipzig in 1914.

This material, which was also used for the Philharmonic first performance of the Radetzky March in 1928, remained in use in the years subsequent to 1946 and became subject to several handwritten adaptations and changes. With time, the Radetzky March was no longer performed the way it was notated in Weninger's arrangement.

Over the course of time, not only typographical errors were corrected, but the musicians also altered notes and eliminated some of the orchestral parts in order to overcome weaknesses in the orchestration. This applied particularly to the percussion section. In this case, a former percussionist contacted older musicians who themselves had played with members of the Strauß Orchestra. The incorporation of such orally handed-down performance practices resulted in hand-written parts that since then have been in use.

The printed parts on the other hand, which included, among others, Weninger's addenda for timpani, triangle and glockenspiel, have not been played by the Philharmonic in the New Year's Concerts.

This year, the chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic, Daniel Froschauer, commissioned the music library to capture and document these changes and incorporate them into the orchestra's own new edition of the score. It is this edition that will be used from here on.