Fritz Kreisler (February 2, 1875 – January 29, 1962) was an Austrian (later American) violinist and composer, one of the most famous violinists of his day. Kreisler was noted for his uniquely sweet tone, and also for his expressive phrasing. He produced a characteristic sound, which was immediately recognizable as his own. His tone and phrasing were associated with the gemutlich lifestyle of pre-war Vienna.
Kreisler was born in Vienna and studied at the conservatories there and in Paris, where his teachers included Léo Delibes, Joseph Hellmesberger, Jr., Joseph Massart, and Jules Massenet. He made his first tour of the United States in 1888–89 with Moriz Rosenthal, then returned to Austria and applied for a position in the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. He was turned down, and left music to study first medicine, then painting. He spent a brief time in the army before returning to the violin 1899, giving a concert with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Arthur Nikisch. It was this concert and a series of American tours from 1901 to 1903 that brought him real acclaim.
In 1910, Kreisler gave the premiere of Edward Elgar's Violin Concerto, a work dedicated to him. He briefly served in the Austrian Army in World War I before being honourably discharged after he was wounded. He spent the remaining years of the war in America. He returned to Europe in 1924, living first in Berlin, then moving to France in 1938. Shortly thereafter, at the outbreak of World War II, he settled once again in the United States, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1943. He lived in that country for the rest of his life. He gave his last public concert in 1947 and broadcast performances for a few years after that. He died in New York City in 1962.
Kreisler wrote a number of pieces for the violin, some of them in the style of other composers. Many of these works were originally ascribed to earlier composers such as Gaetano Pugnani, Giuseppe Tartini, and Antonio Vivaldi until Kreisler revealed in 1935 that they were actually by him. When critics complained, Kreisler answered that critics had already deemed the compositions worthy: "The name changes, the value remains". He also wrote operettas (including Apple Blossoms (1919)), a string quartet and cadenzas, including one for the Johannes Brahms Violin Concerto. His cadenza for Ludwig van Beethoven's Violin Concerto is the one most often employed by violinists today.
He owned violins by Guarnerius and Bergonzi. The latter became known as the Kreisler Bergonzi.
Work on Broadway
- Apple Blossoms (1919) - operetta - co-composer
- Continental Varieties (1934) - revue - featured composer for "Caprice Viennois" and "La Gitana"
- Reunion in New York (1940) - revue - featured composer for "Stars in Your Eyes"
- Rhapsody (1944) - musical - composer
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