After the very atmospheric and austere episode about the new star, the young Johann Strauss's debut at Dommayer's, we get a slightly different tone now. The historic event of the revolution that took place in 1848 (also in Vienna) marked the destruction of the old order not only in political but also the cultural world. As Johann Strauss the Elder (Eric Woofe) points it out here: "Nothing will be quite the same again." For some indeed, nothing else will matter and for others, everything will... It was truly "somebody else's night." The stone that breaks the glass of the window where Emily (Barbara Ferris) is sure no one can spoil the night is just a prelude...
Dramatized by Anthony Skene and directed by Peter Potter, episode 4 titled "Revolution" puts emphasis on the events of 1848 and the Strauss Family coping with the horror of the revolution. This time, however, it is Johann Strauss and his "Mrs Strauss" who are in far greater trouble, the financial trouble as well. As the revolution breaks out, they have to flee from Vienna (Strauss being suspected of supporting Prince Metternich and his "old order") and go to England. It is the time when Johann Strauss composes the famous Radetsky March, the piece he is most famous for. But the unforgettable sounds of this march we do not hear as it happens today in the joy of the New Year's wishes but in the gloom of the revolution, its destruction, its arrogance, its violence and misery. While away from home, the revolutionists break into and vandalize everything at hand. They burn his music. In one of the saddest scenes of the series, they come back seeing the tragic condition of their house. Now he can only glimpse the vision of the youth and the new order. As they come back, his children fall ill and there is no money for the doctor. The troubles drive Emily to despair and insanity.
Meanwhile, Anna and her children (Edward being the youngest son who visits his father regularly) do not only glimpse the vision of the youth but live it. They represent a far more positive attitude, a true determination to survive and come out of it all stronger. To view comes Josef Strauss as a young revolutionist and his girl Caroline (played by Jane Seymour). We see the turmoil of the revolution from the inside perspective and more and more of Anna as a caring mother and a forgiving wife. She proves not to be selfish (as Dommayer asks her a rhetorical question: Where would be be without Schani?) and gives some money to her husband who begs her to help his illegitimate children. What a woman! What a courage!
But it is not quite the determination that seems to take over in this episode but far more values. Within the gloomy aspect of Johann Strauss's sickness and death (he died in September 1849 of the scarlet fever that he had caught from his illegitimate children), it is his true family who are at his dead body. Abandoned by those who represented illusive love and passion of a moment and prayed for by those whom he, for some time, ignored. Marvin J Chomsky in his later version STRAUSS DYNASTY depicts the last days of Johann Strauss the Elder memorably as well but the aspect of forgiveness and the drama that must have taken place within his wife's heart is really here. Perhaps a bit too dramatic and stagy these scenes might occur from today's perspective, but they truly leave a lasting impression. There, you feel you are watching a story of a real family, there, you feel that characters of great heart are depicted, those who give and want nothing in return. I mean primarily Anna here and Anne Stallybrass has some more moments of truly strong performance.
Among the supporting cast of the episode, John Harvey as Prince Metternich deserves credit. He is different than Edward Fox in the later version, the development of the character is quite episodic here but there is one line he utters that needs mentioning: Man without his work is nothing." That is what he says to Johann Strauss while they stay in a hotel room in London. And Strauss came back with his Radetsky March and his last applause.
While Schani's music is admired in all Vienna now and the Sperl is filled with his waltzes, there is a reflection of a woman at a grave of Strauss Family Senior who lived for only 45 years.
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