Bahn frei : Work information

Eduard Strauss ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice, Michael Sch√łnwandt (Conductor)

This work

Work name
Bahn frei
Work number
Op. 45
1869-00-00 02:00:00

This recording

Forlane CI
Ivan Pastor
Jean-Martial Golaz
Recording date
1989-01-01 00:00:00

Track listing

  • 2:28 min


Eduard Strauss, the youngest brother of Johann II and Josef, is perhaps best remembered as a fine conductor and interpretor of his brothers' music. However, he also composed many polkas and galops, many of which have been lost. The polka Bahn Frei! (Clear the Track!) was written in 1869 and is typical in referring to contemporary life. Listen out for those train whistles!

The Composers

Eduard Strauss

The youngest son of Johann Strauss, and brother to the Waltz King (Johann Strauss II), Eduard was always in the shadow of his two elder brothers. Many of his compositions compare favourably, however, with those of Johann and Josef, and as a performing musician, 'stylish Edi' was their equal. He is probably best known for his 1869 polka, Bahn Frei.

Born in Vienna on 15 March 1835, Eduard's talent for languages initially suggested he was bound for a career with the Austrian consular service. His destiny lay elsewhere, however, and on 11 February 1855 he made his debut with the Strauss Orchestra as a harpist, though he also played the violin. Dogged by nervousness, his career as a harpist quickly evaporated, but an alternative vocation as a conductor proved much more successful.

With Josef forced to leave Vienna in 1862 to relieve the aging Johann, Eduard temporarily took over the Strauss Orchestra. Bitter disagreements with his brothers in 1869 almost forced him to resign and only the intervention of their mother, Anna Strauss, and the drafting of a contract, persuaded him to stay. With Josef's death in 1870 and Johann's preoccupation with theatrical works, Eduard took over sole direction of the Strauss Orchestra until it was disbanded in 1901.

Under Eduard's direction, the orchestra visited 840 towns in two continents, played before Queen Victoria, and visited America and Russia. In 1870 the brothers instigated Sunday afternoon concerts at Vienna's Musikverein (where the Strauss-dominated New Year's concert is now traditionally held) that turned out to be a huge popular and artistic success.

After retiring from public life in March 1901, Eduard helped compile a list of material for the Strauss Orchestra's musical archive but in 1907, alienated from his family following his eldest son's bankruptcy, he destroyed the archive in a series of fires. Among the items lost were his own transcriptions of operatic and symphonic music. Suffering from ill health, he died from a heart attack on 28 December 1916.

Eduard's compositions were first published in 1863 at the height of his elder brothers' fame. By the time his compositional gifts were fully developed, though, his talents had long been overlooked and he struggled to find publishers for his music. This wasn't helped by Johann warning his own publisher not to issue Eduard's compositions for fear he would stop playing Johann's works. Many of his waltzes are marked by an optimism often lacking in his brothers' works, and the ever popular Bahn Frei continues to be played regularly.