David's Review Corner
, June 2011
One of the most famous violinists of the early 20th century, Fritz Kreisler found himself on both sides of the conflict in the First World War, quite happy to record in the United States before they became physically involved. He had served in the Austrian army and was wounded in the early days, his eventual recuperation coinciding with his discharge. He was back touring to New York in 1914 and returned there the following year, both visits providing an opportunity to spend time in the Victor recording studio where he forged a relationship with a new accompanist, the American, Carl Lamson. It is those sessions that form the twenty-four tracks of this present release, though many more were never published and are lost. Just where America stood in those days is reflected with Victor’s request for recordings of the Austrian national anthem on both occasions. Kreisler seems content to have recorded an endless flow of classical ‘lollypops’ to meet the company’s commercial desires, their choice qualified by an ability to fit onto a maximum five minute side of a disc. Even the Bach Double Violin Concerto, with Efram Zimbalist as second violin, had to be slightly truncated, while the orchestral role was served by a string quartet. Mendelssohn, Dvořák, Handel, Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Kreisler’s own light music feature, together with sentimentality from Gartner and Nevin. Two songs and an aria sung by Gerandine Farrar, and Kreisler’s piano performance of a Dvořák Humoresque completes this well-filled release. A master craftsman, intonation always impeccable, and, even in these early recording days, the beauty of his tone can be appreciated. The transfers are excellent.