After the original music was written, the words were added by the Choral Association’s poet, Joseph Weyl. Strauss later added more music, and Weyl needed to change some of the words. Strauss adapted it into a purely orchestral version for the World’s Fair in Paris that same year, and it became a great success in this form. The instrumental version is by far the most commonly performed today. An alternate text by Franz von Gernerth, Donau so blau (Danube so blue), is also used on occasion. The Blue Danube premiered in the United States in its instrumental version on 1 July 1867 in New York, and in Great Britain in its choral version on 21 September 1867 in London at the promenade concerts at Covent Garden.
The specifically Viennese sentiments associated with the waltz have made it an unofficial Austrian national anthem. The waltz is traditionally broadcast by all public-law television and radio stations exactly at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and on New Year’s Day it is a customary encore piece at the annual Vienna New Year’s Concert. The first few bars are the interval signal of Österreichischer Rundfunk‘s international programs.
When Strauss’s stepdaughter, Alice von Meyszner-Strauss, asked the composer Johannes Brahms to sign her autograph-fan, he wrote down the first bars of The Blue Danube, but adding “Leider nicht von Johannes Brahms” (Alas! not by Johannes Brahms).
A typical performance lasts around 10 minutes, with the seven-minute main piece, followed by a three-minute coda.
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Vienna Philharmonic, 01.01.2011, New Year’s Concert, Conductor Franz Welser-Möst, Musikverein, German TV ZDF