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Fritz Kreisler (1875 - 1962)

Kreisler was, without doubt, one of the most famous violinists of all time, dominating the world’s stage until the 1930s and surviving even Jascha Heifetz’s explosive début of 1917, audiences remaining loyal to Kreisler’s warmth of tone and arresting musical personality. Feted by many as a pioneer of the so-called continuous vibrato (i.e. used as a constituent part of his tone, applied to passagework as much as to long melodic notes), Kreisler was not without his detractors in his early years. In 1896, when he auditioned for the Vienna Hofoper Orchestra, Arnold Rosé, twelve years his senior, rejected him on the grounds that he was unable to sight read—a reason that seems far less plausible than the possibility that Rosé, espousing an older German performance aesthetic (not unlike Joachim’s), considered Kreisler’s playing inartistic and perhaps even felt threatened by his easy but devastatingly effective tonal charms. In spite, or perhaps because, of Ysaÿe giving Kreisler a standing ovation at his Berlin première, Joachim was cool in his reception of the young virtuoso who in many ways epitomised the qualities of the Franco-Belgian school that Joachim criticised. Most certainly he disagreed with what he considered an abuse of the vibrato and when Kreisler filled in for an accompanist in Joachim’s class the master failed to mention Kreisler’s violin performance, preferring instead to compliment him on his piano playing!



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