An der schönen blauen Donau op. 314 (On the Beautiful Blue Danube)
More commonly known as "The Blue Danube"
Composed by Johann Strauss II in 1867
Although Johann Strauss the younger wrote almost 500 waltzes, there is just one that unquestionably rises to the top. If asked to name, sing, or play a waltz, chances are that "The Blue Danube" is the one most people will think of. Its popularity is further assisted by numerous appearances in pop culture, the most famous of which is Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, but also including Monty Python, Titanic, The Simpsons, SpongeBob SquarePants, Cool Runnings, Tom & Jerry, and undoubtedly more.
"The Blue Danube" is Austria's unofficial national anthem. When Austria did not yet have an official national anthem of its own, "The Blue Danube" was performed during Austria's declaration of independence from Nazi Germany in April 1945.
Written as a choral piece & first performed in February 1867 by the Vienna Men's Choral Association, initial reception was lukewarm. However just three months later, adapted & performed as an orchestal piece at the Paris World's Fair in May 1867, it was met with such acclaim that the Prince of Wales invited Strauss to conduct the piece soon after in London, and in 1872 Strauss even conducted a performance in the United States with a 2k piece orchestra, 20k person choir, and 100k person audience. Indeed, the piece became so popular that apparently Strauss's publisher needed to print more than a million copies of the piano score to fill orders, and made 100 new copper printing plates in order to meet demand.
"The Blue Danube" usually takes about 10 minutes to perform and is comprised of many parts. It starts with a long slow introduction, with fragments of the most well known theme but eventually speeds up and settles in to a rousing tempo version of the same theme. It then goes through many different themes, playing each twice before moving on to the next one, and then revisits various themes before making its way back to finish on the first well known theme in full then fragment then flourish. The tempo varies throughout the piece, often adding little introductions and slowing at the start of each theme before speeding up again, which makes this waltz best heard as a concert piece rather than danced to in a ballroom.