Fritz Kreisler - The Complete Recordings - vol. 1
I. Gramophone and Typewriter Ltd, Berlin 1904
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 - 1750)
1. Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006: I Prelude in E (arr. Kreisler) [3:14]
2. Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D, BWV 1068: II Air on the G string (arr. Wilhelmj) [2:38]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 - 1893)
3. Souvenir de Hapsal Op. 2; No. 3 Chant sans paroles (arr. Kreisler) [2:52]
Joseph SULZER (? - ?)
4. Sarabande Op. 8 [1:56]
François SCHUBERT (1808 - 1878)
5. L’abeille (The Bee) Op. 13, No. 9 [1:00]
II. Victor Talking Machine Company, New York City, May 1910
Bedrich SMETANA (1824 - 1884)
6. From My Homeland: No. 2 Andantino ‘Bohemian Fantasy’ [4:10]
Stephen Collins FOSTER (1826 - 1864)
7. Old Folks at Home (arr Kreisler) [3:14]
Fritz KREISLER (1875 - 1962)
8. Caprice viennois, in G flat, Op. 2 [3:26]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841 - 1904)
9. Humoresque in G flat Op. 101 No. 7 [3:42]
Jules MASSENET (1842 - 1912)
10. Thais: Meditation (arr. Martin Marsick) [3:50]
11. Thais: Meditation (arr. Martin Marsick) [3:59]
12. Tambourin chinois [3:25]
13. Liebesleid [3:51]
14. Liebesfreud [3:20]
15. Liebesfreud [3:22]
16. From My Homeland: No. 2 Andantino ‘Bohemian Fantasy’ [4:26]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833 - 1897)
17. Hungarian Dance No. 5 (arr. in G minor Joachim) [2:17]
18. Variations on a Theme of Corelli (in the style of Tartini) [2:59]
19. Caprice viennois, Op. 2 [3:37]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797 - 1828)
20. Moments musicaux, D.780, No. 3 [1:53]
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683 - 1764)
21. Les fêtes d’Hébé: Tambourin (arr. Kreisler) [1:52]
22. Souvenir de Hapsal Op. 2; No. 3 Chant sans paroles (arr. Kreisler) [2:44]
Rawlins COTTENET (? - ?)
23. Chanson - Méditation [4:03]
Johann Sebastian BACH
24. Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006: III. Gavotte en Rondeau in E (arr Kreisler) [3:14]
Fritz Kreisler (violin), w. piano accompaniment (1-5), w. George Falkenstein (piano) (6- 24)
rec. Berlin 1904 (1-5); New York, May 1910 (6-24)
NAXOS 8.112053 [74:43]

The good news for Kreisler fanciers is the establishment of a Naxos complete solo recording series. Collectors will know that the concertos and other things - transcriptions and the Victor Symphony Orchestra/Charles O’Connell sides for instance - have already been on their books for a good time, so working backwards in this way is to be applauded. The complete solo recordings also includes all known alternative takes - for those of a collecting disposition Ward Marston notes that this will include a hefty number of previously unreleased alternatives. The recordings with his brother Hugo and the single piano recording he made, along with the Farrar and McCormack sides, will also be released under this series’ rubric. That then is a background and a taster for what’s to come.

The last time Marston undertook wholesale restoration of these solo Kreisler recordings, to the best of my knowledge, was back in 1987 when he presented two big boxed LP sets for subscribers of The Strad magazine. These didn’t include the early 1904 G & Ts but did include the Complete Victors and also the Early Electrics 1925-29; the concerto recordings made during these years were also included. I’ve done A/B listening, and to some of the 1910 Victor 78s themselves, and am happy to report that Marston has done a first rate job here. His Strad transfers are solidly eclipsed. There is a considerable increase in definition, in the piano sound spectrum, which is now far more audible and effectively realised. With increased clarity has come a complete diminution of the sense of diffusion that sometimes surrounded those earlier transfers.

So one can listen to these early inscriptions with confidence and simply admire the epoch-making playing. His first session, in Berlin, produced a singing Bach Prelude in his own arrangement (with piano accompaniment of course), a vibrant Tchaikovsky, where his tone retains vibrancy even in the higher positions, and a two-on-one side combination of Sulzer and François Schubert. The technological advances between the Berlin session and those made in New York for Victor in 1910 are palpable. The sequence of successful sides made with pianist George Falkenstein during May was amazing and in particular those made on the 13th. These included the first of his original compositions - as opposed to arrangements - to be released; Caprice viennois. He plays Dvořák’s Humoresque with delicacy and grace, and the Meditation from Thaïs (two takes are here) with sustained singing legato. His own Liebeslied has inimitable grace and poise and we’re fortunate that two takes of Liebesfreud have survived; the issued take and one unpublished on 78. He reprised the two-on-one device by coupling Schubert’s Moments musicaux No.3 with Rameau’s Tambourin - both Kreisler’s arrangements - on one 78 side. And he revisited the Tchaikovsky he’d recorded in Berlin and reprised it for Victor in New York. He essays Smetana’s From My Homeland, or at least the second part, in two performances made a few days apart - both takes were issued at the time. Cottentet’s Chanson - Méditation is now, I think, reckoned to have been composed by Kreisler.

The roll-call of recordings exemplifies the profoundly important contribution he made to the art of violin playing. A generation and more changed its whole ethos as a result of his advances in the use of continuous vibrato. These earliest examples of his art show graphically how and why this was the case. 

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Göran Forsling