Fritz Kreisler – the beloved violinist

Fritz Kreisler, one of the most admired and loved violinists died 40 years ago today in New York. Kreisler has been in my life since early childhood. Listening to him playing on the many records we had at home, reading stories and anectodes were always a source of joy and inspiration. As a young aspiring violinist I wanted early on to play his music, whether his original compositions or one of his numerous transcriptions.

Fritz Kreisler was born in Vienna on February 2, 1875. Early on he showed remarkable talent and was tutored in Vienna and Paris by the best teachers of the time. After an initial good start his career began to falter and Fritz took up the study of medicine and arts. He also enlisted in the Austrian  army, served as officer and was wounded in the 1st world war, but eventually returned to the violin.  Kreisler not only regained his brilliant technique but became a master of interpretation. His sweet tone and expressive phrasing were his signature. Living in Vienna and Paris between the two world wars, Kreisler moved to the US prior to the 2nd world war and remained there till the end of his life.

Along with his busy concert schedule, Kreisler wrote numerous pieces for the violin, delightful encores, such as ‘Liebesleid’, Miniature Marche Viennoise or this sweet Toy Soldier March, both of which you can find on my album ‘As You Like It’

Kreisler’s fame went beyond just playing the violin. He spoke 7 languages, was made Commander of the Legion of Honour in France, received the Beethoven Gold Medal in London. Known for his equisite humor he was a very welcome guest at royal and state functions as well as dinner parties. His anectodes are memorable.

‘A woman who rushed up to Kreisler after a concert and gushed, “I’d give my life to be able to play like that. Kreisler answered the woman, “I did.”

Kreisler was invited to a dinner  with a note requesting “Please bring your violin with you”. Kreisler replied “I will be happy to come, unfortunately my violin cannot as she does not eat dinner”

Kreisler is honoured as one of the best violinists of all times but most of all as the most beloved one.