Violinists owe a great debt to Fritz Kreisler. Thecoincidence of his career as a violinist with the early demands of therecording industry persuaded him to compose or arrange a series of shortpieces, each one of a length to fill one side of a record and equally wellsuited to the inevitable encores once expected at the end of a violin recital.
Kreisler was born in Vienna in 1875, the son of a doctorwho was himself an amateur violinist, and entered the Vienna Conservatory atthe age of seven as a pupil of Joseph Hellmesberger, Mahler's successor asconductor of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and grandson of a violinistschool-fellow of Schubert. He later studied at the Paris Conservatoire as apupil of Massart, embarking on his playing career from the age of twelve. In1890 he returned to school in Vienna and began to prepare himself for a careerin his father's profession, but after military service he decided to devotehimself once again to music. He failed to gain a place in the Vienna OperaOrchestra in 1896, but three years later appeared as soloist with the BerlinPhilharmonic Orchestra. From then onwards he continued to win success on theconcert platform, his career only interrupted by the war, which he spent in America,after being invalided out of the Austrian army in 1914 after four weeks ofcampaigning. For ten years Kreisler lived in Berlin, but in 1934 followed othermusicians into voluntary exile, at first in France and finally in the United States, where he died in 1962.
The three Alt-Wiener Tanzweisen, Liebesfreud, Liebesleidand Schon Rosmarin (Love's Joy, Love's Sorrow and Fair Rosemarie) belong to agroup of pieces published as Classical Manuscripts, some of them pastiche topuzzle musicologists, others based on the work of earlier composers. TheCaprice viennois, however, is an original composition that claims no otherauthorship. The present disc also includes six Kreisler transcriptions. Thefirst of these is taken from Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,followed by a more original Rondino based on a theme by Beethoven in therejected final movement of the Wind Octet in E flat, written in 1793. Spanishmusic is represented by a transcription of one of the Spanish Dances by the pianist-composerEnrique Granados, drowned in the English Channel in 1916 when the ship he wasin was torpedoed. The remaining Kreisler transcriptions consist of a BrahmsHungarian Dance, one of Dvorak's Slavonic Dances and the latter's famousHumoresque, as well as a version of one of Schubert's Moments musicaux.
Kreisler found sources for transcription in the work ofTchaikovsky, represented here by versions of the Chant sans paroles, Opus 2No.3 and G minor Chanson triste transcribed by the Hungarian Tivadar Nachez, apupil of Brahms's friend Joachim, who in 1889 settled in London, where heestablished himself as one of the leading soloists of the day. His name, atleast, is remembered by many violinists familiar with the editions of classicalmusic that he has left for posterity, although his own compositions aregenerally forgotten.
The famous Minuet by Luigi Boccherini, a rival inreputation to Haydn in his own life-time, is taken from one of thecellist-composer's hundred or more string quintets. Zdenek Fibich has beenovershadowed abroad by his compatriots and contemporaries Smetana and Dvorak. Aprolific composer, he never won any great material success, in spite of thepopularity of his work for the theatre. Poeme is adapted from one of a set ofpiano pieces written during the last decade of his life and of the 19th centuryand published under a title translated as Moods, Impressions and Reminiscences.
Edward Elgar's Salut d'amour was originally a pianopiece, 'Liebesgruss', written in 1887, while the composer was on holiday inSettle, as an answer to his future wife's poem Love's Grace and dedicated to"Carice", the portmanteau form name he derived from her two Christiannames, Caroline Alice. The piece, one of the most popular Elgar ever wrote,earned him two guineas in its original form, with an orchestral version and thepresent arrangement for violin and piano. Later arrangements brought thecomposer a further ten guineas.
As Salut d'amour enjoy ed embarrassing popularity, soDebussy was haunted by the enthusiasm audiences showed for Claire de lune, partof his Suite bergamasque, nostalgically evocative of the world of Verlaine. Hiscompatriot Jules Massenet's Meditation from the opera Thais, written in 1894,was arranged for violin and piano by the Belgian violinist Marsick, pupil andsuccessor of Massart at the Paris Conservatoire. Based on the work of AnatoleFrance, Thais, typically enough, shows the conversion of the 4th
century Egyptian courtesan Thais to Christianity by the monk Athanael, whohimself falls victim to her charms, while she, following the example of otherMassenet heroines, finds redemption, in this case as a nun.