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Who doesn’t love Fritz Kreisler? Serve a slice of cake; it’s his birthday today, Feb. 2!

Who doesn’t love Fritz Kreisler? Serve a slice of cake; it’s his birthday today, Feb. 2! featured image

Fritz Kreisler was famous in his day as a virtuoso violinist, with a very full, rich, “satisfying” sound. Meaning, he allowed his tempi – the speed and flow of the music – to be quite elastic and flexible; he changed up the vibrato (how the note “wavers” on the string), and was very expressive with his phrasing. He was also not shy about using portamento – a technique where one note “slides” to another. You hear a lot of opera singers do this when they go for the dramatic high note. You hear a lot of pop singers do this badly during the opening rounds of “American Idol”.

Kreisler wrote many gems for violin and piano, popular either as recital pieces or as an encore at the end of a concert. He liked to compose in a style reminiscent of centuries previously gone by and initially passed his music off as newly-discovered works from long ago. In 1935 he revealed everything was his own, and to quell the criticism, said, “hey, the value you placed on them is still there; only the composer has changed.” The cheek of him! Looking back on them now, they are artfully composed pieces of pastiche.

His Praeludium and Allegro was first attributed to 18th century composer Gaetano Pugnani that Kreisler claimed he arranged to make his own, but it was ALL Kreisler. I remember the first time I heard this work as a teenager, and I couldn’t quite place the era of the piece. I’m glad my ears weren’t deceiving me, though Kreisler certainly was.

Kyung Wah Chung plays the Praeludium and Allegro with pianist Phillip Moll.

Fritz Kreisler was born February 2, 1875 in Vienna in the then Austria-Hungary, and died January 29, 1962 in New York City, USA.


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