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Fritz Kreisler

Fritz Kreisler

Country of origin: Austria
Birthday: February 2, 1875
Date of death: January 29, 1962

About Fritz Kreisler

Music possesses all the characteristics of a vice: its acute attractive force, its secret salaciousness, the strange compulsion for self-abandonment... Musicians are therefore the only humans whose vices are respected, honoured and even paid for. (Fritz Kreisler)

Fritz Kreisler was born in Vienna on 2 February 1875. He received violin tuition from Joseph Hellmesberger at the age of seven and became the youngest pupil of his time to study at the Konservatorium der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. He attended his first courses in music theory which were taught by Anton Bruckner. From 1885 to1887, Kreisler studied at the Conservatoire National Supérieur in Paris. The young student was a member of Lambert Massart’s violin class and studied harmony and counterpoint with Leó Delibes. Despite having accompanied the pianist Moritz Rosenthal on a six-month tour of the USA in 1888, Kreisler subsequently began a two-year course in medicine in Vienna following his travels.

He then spent a brief period in military service with the Austrian army. At the age of 21, Kreisler finally resolved to take up a musical career. In 1898, he performed with the Vienna Philharmonic under the direction of Hans Richter and a year later with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Artur Nikisch. This was followed by extensive concert tours to Scandinavia, Russia and Turkey.

In 1910, Edward Elgar dedicated his Violin concerto to the internationally acclaimed violin virtuoso. From 1915, Kreisler was primarily resident in New York, but relocated to Berlin during the middle of the 1920s. Following Hitler’s accession to power, the son of a Jewish doctor left Germany, initially going to Paris. With the outbreak of the Second World War however, Kreisler took up permanent residence in the USA and acquired American citizenship. He died on 29 January 1962 in his adopted home town of New York.

Kreisler was not only an outstanding violinist, but also an extremely talented composer. A substantial part of his concert programmes consisted of his own works or own arrangements of popular pieces by other composers. Works such as Caprice Viennois, Tambourin Chinois and the Rondino über ein Thema von Beethoven have now entered the standard repertoire of numerous violinists. Kreisler also composed several lieder and two operettas (Apfelblüten, New York 1919 and Sissy, Vienna 1932). In numerous compositions, the composer incorporated stylistic elements of famous composers from the past; for example, his Concerto in C major for violin, string orchestra and organ is subtitled “in the style of Vivaldi” and the Concerto No.1 in D major for violin and orchestra utilises motifs from Paganini’s compositional workshop.

Kreisler originally published the collection Classical Manuscripts for violin and piano as arrangements of original works by Corelli, Pugnani, Boccherini and other well-known composers of past eras before unmasking them as original works in 1935. This collection also includes the three “Old Viennese Dance Tunes” Liebesfreud, Liebesleid and Schön Rosmarin in which the composer achieved an ideal combination of his own personal vibrato tone originating from the Viennese tradition from Schuppanzigh to Hellmesberger, his studies in counterpoint of the old masters and the unmistakable Viennese three-four time. These “dance tunes” are today still considered as the most popular of Kreisler’s compositions and are available in numerous arrangements. Kreisler was also an expert arranger and supplemented the violin repertoire with works by de Falla, Ravel, Dvořák and Chopin. His Cadenza for Beethoven’s Violin Concerto is one of the most frequently performed alongside the cadenza by Joseph Joachim.

Kreisler was only twelve when he was awarded the Premier Prix from the Conservatoire in Paris. Eugène Ysaÿe dedicated the fourth of his six Solo Sonatas for Violin to the violinist. The International Fritz Kreisler Society has held the Fritz Kreisler Competition for Violin in Vienna since 1979 in commemoration of the Austrian violin virtuoso.