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David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2012

By the second half of the 1910’s we find Fritz Kreisler in the United States at the peak of his popular fame and recording for the Victor Talking Machine Company. It was a time when the recorded repertoire had to fit onto one, or more, four minute sides of discs, largely restricting the works to salon pieces. It was playing these trifles that the world at large knew of the famous violinist. That did not worry him, as it allowed him to compose his own works in that mode, which added much to his personal income. The disc contains twenty-six tracks including the now long forgotten names of Mary Earl, Felix Winternitz, Raymond Hubbell, Herbert Spencer and Charles Valdez. Many of the remaining tracks are Kreisler arrangements, mostly played with piano accompaniments or with an unnamed orchestra conducted by Josef Pasternack. There are also treasures, including an arrangement of the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s First String Quartet, with Kreisler and four musicians who are conducted! His famed honey tone comes in the Meditation from Massenet’s opera Thais, Carl Lamson doing his best to keep with the violinist’s erratic tempo and rhythms. He was no more accurate in his own jerkily played Liebesfraud, while the opening of Old Folks at Home is lugubrious. Virtuosity takes over in a dash through the fifth Hungarian Dance by Brahms, and, as you would expect, there is plenty of portamento. But in these ‘one take’ recordings his intonation is remarkably accurate and his bowing beautifully controlled. The orchestral sound is primitive, and Ward Marston has not compressed the audio frequency to remove surface noise in his transfers, but has obviously worked from well-preserved copies. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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