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Caricature of Kreisler by Manuel Quiroga. From Le Monde musical, 1910.

Caricature of Kreisler by Manuel Quiroga. From Le Monde musical, 1910.

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KREISLER, Fritz (b.Vienna, 2 February 1875; d.New York, 29 January 1962)
Kreisler, the 50th anniversary of whose death fell in January, can claim to have been the most popular violinist in history. During much of a career which spanned more than half a century, and coincided precisely with the burgeoning of sound recording, his was a worldwide household name at least equivalent to those of Caruso and Melba. Kreisler's success as a performer was matched by that of his compositions - slight salon pieces and pastiches for the most part, but so perfectly adapted to contemporary taste and so elegantly crafted (his teachers had included Bruckner and Délibes) that many became instant classics of the violin repertoire.

Kreisler was respected by his peers every bit as much as by the public and his unique playing style had a widespread influence which can still be clearly traced today. The conductor Bruno Walter said of him; "He did not only play the violin, he became the violin, or better, the violin became Fritz Kreisler ... From the first time on when I heard him play, I always had the impression of hearing the inner soul of music itself. Through the beauty of his singing tone, through the charm of his rhythm, through the natural simplicity of his expression, this very soul of music spoke to me. For he not only makes music, he is music. ... To make music is for Fritz Kreisler what flying is for the bird or swimming for the fish, and I am sure it is this elementary quality which explains the spell that he casts over his audiences, that changes the passing events of his concerts into a profound lasting experience."

(Please click the thumbnails below to view larger image)

Postcard photograph published by Breitkopf & Härtel, London, c.1905. Postcard photograph by the Rotary Photographic Co. Ltd, London, c.1905. Advertising postcard for a concert with the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra, Winter Gardens, Bournemouth, 23 October 1912.

Programme for a miscellaneous concert at Stafford House (now Lancaster House), 1 July 1903. Kreisler's London debut was at the St. James's Hall on 12 May 1902 (Beethoven Concerto, conducted by Hans Richter).

The first of Kresler's various series of arrangements and transcriptions (Leipzig, 1905). The earliest issues in Kreisler's series of 'Original Compositions' (Mainz, 1910). Kreisler's famous series of pastiches, published under the title 'Classical Manuscripts' in 1910.

Letter from Kreisler to John Tillett, dated 13 November 1910.

Programme for the concert in aid of the Foundation Fund of the Royal Philharmonic Society, Queen's Hall, 20 May 1927.  Kreisler played the Beethoven Concerto, Chausson Poème and Lalo Symphonie Espagnole with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Landon Ronald. Programme for a Special Sunday Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, 10 June 1928 with Charlton Keith, piano.  The programme included Bach Concerto in A minor and the Schumann Fantasy.

Programme for the Elgar Memorial Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, 3 June 1934.  Kreisler played the Elgar and Beethoven Concertos with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Landon Ronald.  The Elgar had been composed for, dedicated to and first performed by him in 1910.

Programme for recital at the Royal Albert Hall, 29 March 1936 with Charlton Keith, piano. The programme included Beethoven's Sonata, Op.30 No.3, 3 movements of the Bach E major Partita and the Chausson Poème. Programme for concert at the Royal Albert Hall, 11 April 1937.  Kreisler played the Bach E major, Viotti A minor and Paganini D major Concertos and the Schumann Fantasy with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Barbirolli. Programme for the London Music Festival concert, Royal Albert Hall, 26 April 1939.  Kreisler played the Brahms and Tchaikovsky concertos with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Beecham.