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Rick Steves Classroom Europe™ is a free resource allowing teachers to share the best of European art, history, and culture with their students and fellow educators.

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A Symphonic Journey: Austria’s Famous Waltz (6:11)

Europe

The world’s most famous waltz — “On the Beautiful Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss, Jr. — celebrates the city of Vienna and the river that runs through it. The waltz, the dance craze of its day, captured the cultured elegance of the Habsburg Empire.

Complete Video Script

We'll start in Austria with a Habsburg waltz. You know, the Habsburgs were really the energy and the elegance of the day. And in the 1860s, it was the cultural peak of that empire and the waltz was all the craze.

The Habsburgs ruled a vast empire and they were great patrons of the arts. That's why Mozart and Beethoven and Strauss, and all these great composers, went to Vienna to create all that beautiful music. Strauss was the heartthrob of the Romantic Age in Vienna. With his violin, he could whip up the crowds into a frenzy and he helped create that waltz craze.

This piece gives us the sense of the pride and the joy of Vienna. It is by Johann Strauss, Jr., his number one hit of 1867, "On the Beautiful Blue Danube."