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"The Blue Danube Makeover"

Title The Blue Danube Makeover
ComposerJ. Strauss (arr: F.G.J. Absil)
Instrum.Concert Band
DateJune 2006
StyleVarious styles (classical waltz, jazz waltz, latin cha-cha, up-tempo swing)
KeyVarious keys (Eb - C - F - Eb)
MeterVarious (3/4 and 4/4)
TempoVarious tempi (160 BPM jazz waltz, 120 BPM cha-cha, 246 BPM up-tempo swing)


A musical score excerpt
  • Piccolo, Flute 1-2, Oboe 1-2, Bassoon 1-2, Eb Clarinet, Bb Clarinet 1-2-3, Bass Clarinet;
  • Alto Saxophone 1-2, Tenor Saxophone 1-2, Baritone Saxophone;
  • French Horn 1-2-3-4, Trumpet 1-2-3-4 (1 and 2 doubling on Fluegelhorn), Trombone 1-2-3-4, Baritone 1-2, Tuba;
  • Jazz Guitar, Keyboard, DoubleBass/Bass Guitar, Drums;
  • Timpani, Percussion (2 players: bass drum, bar chimes, congas, cowbell, guiro, tambourine, tam-tam, temple block, triangle, whip), Mallets (glockenspiel, vibraphone, xylophone).


Of course there's nothing wrong with the original. However, a courageous conductor commissioned a fresh approach to this popular masterpiece. So here it is, The Blue Danube Makeover with new paint and polish, as a show piece for concert band.

The first of the four parts is the original introduction, with the horns and bassoons hinting at the main theme. The slow (40 BPM) and lively ([A] m. 23) opening is followed in [B] (m. 46) by the Blue Danube theme, orchestrated as a jazz waltz (160 BPM) in Eb for muted brass and saxes. Two other original themes are presented as genuine waltzes, for clarinets in [C] (m. 78) and unisono brass and saxes in [D] (m. 94), but with a somewhat updated harmonisation.

A G7 chord (tuba and horns) triggers the second part in C major, with an ad lib solo section (template provided for unisono flute, muted trumpet, jazz guitar and vibraphone, [E] m. 113), with soft brass and saxes background. The two other waltz themes are repeated, but now the former (oboes in [F] m. 145) has a more dissonant harmonisation, while the latter (clarinets and brass in [G] m. 161) might trip most dancing feet with its irregular meter (alternating 3/4 and 2/4).

A transition leads to the third section, a Latin Cha-cha in F (120 BPM, [H] m. 182), with another waltz makeover in horns and baritones. The harmony contains diatonic parallel triads and tritone-related chords and suggests an André Popp flavour. Unisono clarinets repeat this melody 8va in [I] (m. 190) with cup mute brass accents. The next melody is set in [J] (m. 198) as a quasi-pedal point for lower brass and woodwinds, and then in [K] (m. 206) as parallel chords in fourths. In [L] the melody leads into a modulating bridge ([M] m. 222), based on transitional material from the original, and appears to halt on a C7alt chord.

The last section is an up-tempo swing (246 BPM) with a kick-off for drums. Two vamp sections ([N] m. 231 and [O] m. 247), with optional repeats, a layered structure and a lead for unisono saxes, may be used for announcements. The all-out coda starts at [P] (m. 264) and is an ensemble setting of the original main theme with a number of drum breaks, a final shrill statement of the Blue Danube motive and a fortissimo closing chord.

Herewith I do sincerely apologize to all you genuine Strauss and Viennese Waltz lovers; I feel sorry for your potential disappointment, but on the way, I had great fun creating this contemporary arrangement!

Concert performance:

This piece was performed by the Dutch Symphonic Wind Orchestra (conductor: Ruud Welle) during their summer 2006 concert tour in France.