Violin Stars Pay Homage to Fritz Kreisler

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Many would consider Fritz Kriesler to be the greatest violinist of the 20th Century. With his immediately recognizable honey tone and effortless Old-World grace, the Viennese stylist played with an unparalleled charm and sensuality. While he’s better known today for the original compositions and arrangements he left, record labels, including EMI and Naxos, have been steadily issuing retrospectives that remind us of his fiddling prowess.

With the 50th anniversary of Kreisler’s death on January 29, Deutsche Grammophon gets into the act with this two-CD compilation, which contains six recordings he made between 1910 and the 1912, as well as reinterpretations from the DG catalogue by modern and past admirers: Jascha Heifetz, Ruggiero Ricci, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Gidon Kremer, David Oistrakh, Christian Ferras and Shlomo Mintz.

Born in Vienna in 1875, Kreisler had a career that spanned 68 years and three generations of music lovers. He was the composer of such melodious Viennese salon encores as the popular Liebesfreud and Liebesleid, and wrote notorious pieces "in the style of" various 18th-century masters (which he passed off as their original works, claiming to have rediscovered them in old manuscripts). In the former category, his wonderfully elastic sense of rhythm and phrasing come through clearly in these cleaned-up mono recordings.

The other major part of Kreisler’s catalogue are transcriptions, several featured here. Mintz brings a sultry take on Spanish numbers by Albéniz and Granados; Ferras unleashes some old-school portamento in Dvorak’s Humoresque; and Heifetz slathers on the vibrato in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Hymn To The Sun. Much of the first disc is given over to a reissue of Ruggiero Ricci’s 1962 Kreisler tribute album which contains the Recitativo & Scherzo-Caprice, Kreisler’s major contribution to the solo violin repertoire, and the Praeludium & Allegro “in the style of Pugnani." Perhaps the most unlikely tribute comes from the postmodernist Gidon Kremer, who seems to play up the irony implicit in Kreisler’s Syncopation.

A Tribute to Fritz Kreisler
Various Artists
Available at Arkivmusic.com

From the WQXR Archives: Fritz Kreisler 80th Birthday Tribute (1955)

Kreisler became an American citizen in 1943 and made his home in New York, where he occasionally appeared on WQXR. On February 2, 1955, the station's music director Abram Chasins assembled a tribute special for Fritz Kreisler. It featured great Kreisler recordings plus audio "shout outs" from nine distinguished violinists: Joseph Szigeti, Yehudi Menuhin, Mischa Elman, Nathan Milstein, Erica Morini, Zino Francescatti, Joseph Fuchs, Ruggiero Ricci, Isaac Stern, plus Carl Lamson, Kreisler’s longtime accompanist.

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Comments [3]

Barry Owen Furrer

While taking nothing away from the genius of Mr. Kreisler, another genius of the early 20th century is often overlooked - Maud Powell(1867-1920). Ms. Powell had an amazing solo and touring career and beginning in 1904, was the first to record many of the "standards" in the repertoire when the industry was still in its infancy. She was a frequent soloist with Theodore Thomas and in 1903 and 1905, was featured soloist with John Philip Sousa's Band while on their European and British tours.

Jan. 21 2012 07:39 AM
caesar j.warrick from milford ct

I love to listen to fritz kreisler. I alway's have.But did WQXR ever feature the violinist Max Rosen? Rosen was a vituoso player and a good friend of George Gershwin.His recordings are hard to find. Fritz Kreisler is wonderful, but how about a little bit of Max Rosen. Thankyou, C.J.W

Jan. 20 2012 07:02 PM
Eduardo Weinschelbaum from Short Hills, NJ

This should probably go to the "Requests" section, but try to find a rare pearl, which I only heard once in my native Argentina (it was in the records library of the Collegium Musicum in Buenos Aires, where I, along many, many others, studied music): It is a recording by Kreisler of Beethoven's violin concerto, I believe, with Sir John Barbiroli conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. The "pearl" comes in that, although the cadenza every violin player has used for the past fifty or so years is the one written by Kreisler, in that recording, Fritz Kreisler plays the "Cadenza Clemens", the one written originally for the concert by the violin master for whom Beethoven originally wrote it.

It is a masterpiece!

Jan. 17 2012 10:41 AM

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