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Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Kreisler Violin Music
see end of review for full details
Oscar Shumsky (violin)
Milton Kaye (piano) (CDs 1-2); William Wolfram (piano) (CDs 3-4)
 rec. 1980s
NIMBUS NI2529/32 [4 CDs: 77:00 + 71:46 + 50:30 + 50:18]

Experience Classicsonline


I’ve been an addict of Shumsky’s for many years and count his London appearances as one of the higher points in my concert-going. One hears things about his more abrasive side but that’s not a consideration when faced with appreciation of his recordings. It was certainly fortunate that some companies at least clamoured to record him.

Nimbus has here collated the Kreisler recordings Shumsky made with Milton Kaye and William Wolfram and shaped them into four well-filled CDs. Long kinship with them has probably rendered me less articulate than usual regarding the many delights enshrined here; the virile yet sensitively artful vibrato, the purposeful yet stylistically apt use of rubato, the occasional period portamento, the whole ethos as evoked by Shumsky being one of ineffable rightness.

Just a few signpost pointers from me as to the glories on offer, then. The first disc divides in to neat paragraphs; Viennese, works ‘in the style of,’ and Dvořák-Kreisler. I needn’t vouch for the Praeludium and Allegro, masterful and masculine, clean of execution, invincible in rhythm; I should note one of my own special favourites – the ‘Pugnani’ Tempo di Menuetto - which is a model of how such things should be played. True, the acoustic accorded the Dvořák-Kreisler items is a great deal more billowing than elsewhere and slightly blunts things but that’s a small matter really when one can appreciate the legato in the Slavonic Dance No.1 in G Minor and the affectingly traversed Indian Lament.

The second disc delves into Originals, and Tartini and Corelli. How skittishly Shumsky scampers through the very fast central variations of the Variations on a Theme by Corelli. To be fair La Folia is more Kreisler than Corelli but the refreshing playing is the focus and splendid it is. Tartini’s Concerto in the Style of Vivaldi is bracing, dramatic and strongly argued with an especially appealingly sung slow movement. The Devil's Trill Sonata is quite measured. One of Kreisler’s bigger challenges and most impressive originals is the Recitative and Scherzo-Caprice which is winningly done. 

The third disc offers a range of pleasures from an original, to Tchaikovsky, Traditional, Grainger and more ‘in the style of’. He plays Tambourin Chinois with full awareness of a battery of expressive nuances, not simply portamenti but vibrato usage and speed, rubati and a phalanx of left and right hand devices that vest the music with idiomatic charm. One thing is true with Shumsky, as one would expect of a player who heard his idol Kreisler at first hand; these devices come from within and always sound natural. His Londonderry Air is slower than Kreisler and that generation of fiddle players habitually took it. Chanson Louis XIII et Pavane is elegant but not suave and in this selection of ‘in the style of’ pieces there is not one extraneous gesture, not one hint of gaucherie.

The final disc divides into Classical, Romantic and Spanish. There’s a delectable trio of Schubert pieces from the first category and Kreisler’s only arrangement of a Brahms Hungarian Dance from the Romantics. It’s No.17 in E sharp minor. Schumann’s Romance sounds glorious in this performance and the Albéniz pieces do full justice to their transcriber.

Memorable performances then which offer a locus classicus as to how to approach this repertory. Fortunately Shumsky had two able though very different colleagues at the keyboard and together they set a high standard. One notes the different acoustics but overwhelmingly one acknowledges the wonderful and imaginatively phrased playing, as captivating today as when it was first recorded.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Patrick Lam
Track details
CD 1:
Australian Imperial Hymn (Violin Alone) [2:54]
Caprice Viennois [3:51]
Liebesfreud [3:24]
Liebesleid [3:48]
Schön Rosmarin [1:57]
Viennese Rhapsodic Fantasietta [8:18]
Works "in the style of":
Praeludium and Allegro (Pugnani) [5:50]
Allegretto (Boccherini) [3:33]
Allegretto (Porpora) [4:07]
La Chasse (Cartier) [2:01]
Grave (W.F. Bach) [3:39]
Sicilienne et Rigaudon (Francoeur) [4:18]
Tempo di Menuetto (Pugnani) [3:44]
Humoresque [3:23]
Slavonic Dance No.1 in G Minor [3:23]
Slavonic Dance No.2 in E Minor [4:59]
Slavonic Dance No.3 in G Major [4:43]
Indian Lament [4:24]
Slavonic Fantasy on 'Songs My Mother Taught Me' [4:43]
CD 2:
La Gitana [2:56]
Cavatina [3:30]
Toy Soldiers' March [2:02]
Recitative and Scherzo-Caprice (violin alone) [5:14]
Shepherd's Madrigal [4:46]
Gypsy Caprice [5:08]
Variations on a Theme by Corelli (Tartini/Kreisler) [3:17]
Fugue (Tartini/Kreisler) [3:38]
Sarabande and Allegretto (Corelli/Kreisler) [4:09]
La Folia (Corelli/Kreisler) [10:40]
Tartini: Concerto in the Style of Vivaldi:
Allegro energico ma non troppo [5:15]
Andante doloroso [4:09]
Allegro molto [2:51]
Devil's Trill Sonata (Tartini/Kreisler) [14:11]
CD 3:
Tambourin Chinois [3:50]
Andante cantabile [5:59]
Humoresque [2:52]
Chant sans paroles [3:09]
Scherzo [3:58]
Londonderry Air ("Danny Boy") [4:34]
Works "in the style of":
Chansons Louis XIII et Pavane (Couperin) [3:53]
Scherzo (Dittersdorf) [3:22]
La Precieuse (Couperin) [3:17]
Andantino (Martini) [4:05]
Tambourin (Leclair) [2:09]
Aubade Provençale (Couperin) [2:31]
Minuett (Porpora) [3:58]
CD 4:
Impromptu (Schubert/Kreisler) [5:28]
Ballet Music from Rosamunde (Schubert/Kreisler) [1:58]
Moment Musical (Schubert/Kreisler) [1:57]
Larghetto (Weber) [2:20]
Hungarian Rondo (Haydn) [3:19]
Melodie - "Orpheus" (Gluck) [3:07]
Rondo - "Haffner" Serenade [Divertimento No.17] (Mozart) [7:13]
Hungarian Dance (Brahms) [4:02]
Romance (Schumann) [4:31]
Song Without Words (Mendelssohn) [2:57]
Malaguena (Albéniz) [3:52]
Tango (Albéniz) [2:14]
Spanish Dance (Granados) [3:54]
Danse Espagnole from La vida breve (Falla) [3:25]
Spanish Dance (Granados) [3:54]




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