Waldteufel, Émile

1837-1915

Biography

Émile Waldteufel was born on December 9, 1837 in Strasbourg. His mother was a pianist; she studied under Johann Nepomuk Hummel and used to know Joseph Haydn. His father Louis and brother Leon were violinists and wrote dance music. Emil received his first piano lessons from his mother. Later he studied with the local musician, Joseph Heiberger. In 1846, the family moved from Strasbourg to Paris, since Emile's brother entered the Paris Conservatory specializing as a violinist. Waldteufel Jr. decided to devote his life to the piano. His first teacher at the conservatory was Adolphe Laurent, and later Emile continued his studies in Antoine-François Marmontel class. As a student, Waldteufel was on friendly terms with Jules Frédéric Massenet, who studied in the same class of Lauren.

The musician had to suspend his studies and temporarily worked at the piano factory because of financial difficulties in the family, but soon he hired a room to concentrate fully on composing music. By this time, the orchestra, conducted by Louis Waldteufel, became one of the most famous in Paris, and Emil performed with the orchestra during the major events.

At the age of 27 Waldteufel became the Empress Eugenia Court pianist. At the same time, the musician conducted during the Court balls in the Tuileries that were organized by Napoleon III. In 1868, the composer married Celestine Dufau, a singer who performed at the Opera Comic. By the time, Waldteufel waltzes were known only to the Parisian public. The musician gained the international recognition only by the age of 40. In 1874, he performed at the event attended by the Prince of Wales, the future king of England, Edward VII. The Prince was delighted with the waltz "Manolo", and volunteered to make Waldteufel music popular in the UK. The long-term contract with the publisher “Hopwood and the Team” followed. According to the contract, Waldteufel commited to write four waltzes and one other type work every year for eight years, with the possibility of a break every two years. Part of the publishing house belonged to Charles Coote, the part-time director of the first dance orchestra in London - Coote and Tinnies Band. Waldteufel compositions were included in their repertoire that contributed to the dissemination and popularization of the composer's work. Soon the music of Waldteufel conquered the London scenes. He performed at Buckingham Palace in front of Queen Victoria, and his waltzes dominated the music programs during Her Majesty's balls. It was during this period that his most famous waltzes were created, including the Skaters Waltz in 1882, performed both on skating rinks and during the dancing parties. The skating-rink in Le bois de Boulogne inspired the composer to write this waltz. The winter atmosphere in the waltz was created by the bells, and the performance of the waltz itself resembled a skater’s running across the ice.

In 1882, the composer was invited to New York, but he declined the offer.

Later, of Waldteufel performed as a conductor in London, Berlin and Rome. In 1890 and 1891, he conducted the dancing parties at the Paris National Opera.

The composer died on February 12, 1915 in Paris at the age of 77 years.

Subtle harmonies and gentle phrasing characterized Waldteufel music. The composer rarely used one melody in his waltzes, often contrasting several opposing themes. Waldteufel most famous dance compositions were “Skaters”, “Manolo”, “Sirens”, “España,”, “Dolores”. Originally, Waldteufel wrote all waltzes and polkas for piano; the orchestral transcription was created later.