Romantic Violin Favourites (Takako Nishizaki/ Wolf Harden) (Naxos: 8.550125)
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Romantic Violin Favourites Popular Transcriptions
by Fritz Kreisler (1875 - 1962)
Ballet Music from Rosamunde - Franz Schubert
Adagietto from L' Arlesienne -Georges Bizet
Hymn to the Sun from The Golden Cockerel - Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov
Largo (Ombra mai fu) from Serse - George Frideric Handel
Hindu Song from Sadko - NikolayRimsky-Korsakov
Songs My Mother Taught Me (Gypsy Song No.4) - Antonin Dvorak
Oriental Dance from Sheherazade - Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov
Arabian Song from Sheherazade -Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov
Melody (Dance of the Blessed Spirits) - Christoph Willibald von Gluck
Gypsy Rondo from Piano Trio in G - Joseph Haydn
Austrian Imperial Hymn - JosephHaydn
Rondo from the Haffner Serenade - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Romance from Opus 94 - RobertSchumann
To the Spring from Lyric Pieces - Edvard Grieg
Tambourin - Jean-PhilippeRameau
Molly on the Shore - PercyGrainger
Song of the Volga Boatmen - Traditional
Londonderry Air - Traditional
Fritz Kreisler was born in 1875 in Vienna, and died 87 years later inNew York. He was one of the most popular violinists since the time of Paganini,renowned for his apparently effortless skill and unerring fluency.
As a boy Kreisler took lessons first from his father, a doctor and enthusiasticamateur musician, and entered the Vienna Conservatory at the phenomenally earlyage of seven, studying there under Joseph Hellmesberger and taking theorylessons from Anton Bruckner. He later moved to Paris where he became a pupil ofMassart, Wieniawski's teacher. From the age of twelve, when he was one of thejoint winners of the first prize at the Paris Conservatoire, playing athree-quarter size Amati violin, he had no further lessons.
The following years brought an interruption in w hat was ultimately tobe his career. After touring America, Kreisler returned to school in Vienna,followed by a brief study of medicine and military service. Settling finally onmusic rather than medicine, he attempted the audition for the Vienna CourtOpera in 1896, but failed, apparently through deficiencies in his sense ofrhythm. He followed this reverse with renewed concentration on solo work. Twoyears later his career began, with the greatest success, particularly when heresumed his international appearances in 1919. After the Anschluss he movedpermanently to the United States of America, where he died in 1962.
Kreisler's playing was in many ways ahead of his time, particularly inhis characteristic and constant use of vibrato, a practice that had earlierbeen thought unmusical. His bowing technique avoided unnecessary use of thewhole bow, once thought essential, and he possessed a happy disbelief in thevalue of practice, something he described as simply a bad habit.
For his own use Kreisler wrote and arranged a considerable amount ofmusic. He provided transcriptions of a number of popular melodies of all kindsand to this added a number of alleged transcriptions that were, in fact,pastiche compositions of his own, written In imitation of the composers whosenames they bore. In all these pieces there is the same insight into thetechnical possibilities of the violin, coupled with a keen understanding of thecontemporary need for music that might, in his day, fill one side of a recordor nowadays serve as a dazzling or attractive encore.
Schubert's music for the unsuccessful play Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus, has allowed the work aspurious and nominal survival. Kreisler transcribed not the well known dactylictheme that the composer also used in an impromptu and in his A Minor String Quartet, but an equallypopular melody from the ballet music for the play.
The Adagietto from Bizet's music for Alphonse Daudet's melodrama, L'Arlesienne, a work in which the girlfrom Arles never actually appears, was originally scored for string quartet andre-arranged in a Suite the composer derived from the incidental music after thepoor reception of the drama In the theatre.
The Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov was equally unlucky with hisremarkable opera The Golden Cockerel, which was taken by the censors as anattack on the Tsar and his government in their mishandling of theRusso-Japanese War. Reportedly the Tsar had not been favourably impressed by anearlier work, the opera Sadko,from which the Hindu Song is taken, finding it depressing, a criticism thatcould hardly have been levelled at the glowing colours and exotic melodies ofSheherazade, an orchestral interpretation of elements from The Arabian Nights.
Handel's Largo, notappropriately named, since it is in fact marked Larghetto by the composer, wasoriginally a satirical aria. Ombra mai fu, from the opera Serse (Xerxes), a work unusual amongHandel's operas for its element of comedy. Custom has made of the song a muchmore serious piece than was at first intended.
Kreisler made a number of transcriptions from Dvorak, including thefourth of the Gypsy Songs. A Hungarian gypsy element appeared in Haydn's G Major Piano Trio, an earlier example ofInterest in melodic forms that had as much art as tradition about them. Haydn'sAustrian Imperial Hymn had its origin in the composer's visits to England,where he heard the English national anthem. On his return to Vienna he providedthe Emperor with the birthday present of the Emperor's Hymn, a melody he usedin a rater string quartet movement that others appropriated for more overtlypatriotic purposes.
Gluck is associated in particular with the opera reforms of the latereighteenth century .The Dance of the Blessed Spirits is taken from his opera Orfeo, on the subject of the legendarymusician Orpheus and the death and attempted rescue of his beloved Eurydicefrom the Underworld.
Mozart's Haffner Serenade was occasional music, in common with much ofthe work of the greatest composers. The Serenade from which the Rondo is takenwas written in Salzburg in 1776 in honour of a member of the Haffner family,distinguished locally and friends of the socially ambitious Mozarts.
Schumann's three Romances, for oboe, or cello, or violin and piano,were written in 1849, at a time when he was about to take up his first officialappointment as Director of Music in D??sseldorf, a position In which he failedto distinguish himself and which came to an end with his attempted suicide andsubsequent insanity and death.
The Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, Scottish and a Greig by ancestry,wrote a number of sets of Lyric Pieces for piano during his life. The famous Tothe Spring forms part of a collection published in 1886. Nationalism of anotherkind was a feature of the music of his disciple Percy Grainger, an eccentricproduct of Australia. The popular Molly on the Shore, an arrangement of anIrish folk-melody, was originally written for string quartet, but was to appearin the composer's own alternative versions both expanded and contracted inscoring.
The varied nature of Kreisler's taste is shown in the inclusion of atranscription of a Tambourin from the work of the eighteenth century Frenchcomposer Rameau, and in two final arrangements of traditional melodies, theRussian Song of the Volga Boatmen and the Irish Londonderry Air.