About this Recording

Violin Miniatures

Violin Miniatures


Violinists owe a great debt to Fritz Kreisler. The coincidence of his career as a violinist with the early demands of the recording industry persuaded him to compose or arrange a series of short pieces, each one of a length to fill one side of a record and equally well suited to the inevitable encores once expected at the end of a violin recital.


Kreisler was born in Vienna in 1875, the son of a doctor who was himself an amateur violinist, and entered the Vienna Conservatory at the age of seven as a pupil of Joseph Hellmesberger, Mahler's successor as conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and grandson of a violinist school-fellow of Schubert. He later studied at the Paris Conservatoire as a pupil of Massart, embarking on his playing career from the age of twelve. In 1890 he returned to school in Vienna and began to prepare himself for a career in his father's profession, but after military service he decided to devote himself once again to music. He failed to gain a place in the Vienna Opera Orchestra in 1896, but three years later appeared as soloist with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. From then onwards he continued to win success on the concert platform, his career only interrupted by the war, which he spent in America, after being invalided out of the Austrian army in 1914 after four weeks of campaigning. For ten years Kreisler lived in Berlin, but in 1934 followed other musicians into voluntary exile, at first in France and finally in the United States, where he died in 1962.


The three Alt-Wiener Tanzweisen, Liebesfreud, Liebesleid and Schon Rosmarin (Love's Joy, Love's Sorrow and Fair Rosemarie) belong to a group of pieces published as Classical Manuscripts, some of them pastiche to puzzle musicologists, others based on the work of earlier composers. The Caprice viennois, however, is an original composition that claims no other authorship. The present disc also includes six Kreisler transcriptions. The first of these is taken from Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, followed by a more original Rondino based on a theme by Beethoven in the rejected final movement of the Wind Octet in E flat, written in 1793. Spanish music is represented by a transcription of one of the Spanish Dances by the pianist-composer Enrique Granados, drowned in the English Channel in 1916 when the ship he was in was torpedoed. The remaining Kreisler transcriptions consist of a Brahms Hungarian Dance, one of Dvorak's Slavonic Dances and the latter's famous Humoresque, as well as a version of one of Schubert's Moments musicaux.


Kreisler found sources for transcription in the work of Tchaikovsky, represented here by versions of the Chant sans paroles, Opus 2 No.3 and G minor Chanson triste transcribed by the Hungarian Tivadar Nachez, a pupil of Brahms's friend Joachim, who in 1889 settled in London, where he established himself as one of the leading soloists of the day. His name, at least, is remembered by many violinists familiar with the editions of classical music that he has left for posterity, although his own compositions are generally forgotten.


The famous Minuet by Luigi Boccherini, a rival in reputation to Haydn in his own life-time, is taken from one of the cellist-composer's hundred or more string quintets. Zdenek Fibich has been overshadowed abroad by his compatriots and contemporaries Smetana and Dvorak. A prolific composer, he never won any great material success, in spite of the popularity of his work for the theatre. Poeme is adapted from one of a set of piano pieces written during the last decade of his life and of the 19th century and published under a title translated as Moods, Impressions and Reminiscences.


Edward Elgar's Salut d'amour was originally a piano piece, 'Liebesgruss', written in 1887, while the composer was on holiday in Settle, as an answer to his future wife's poem Love's Grace and dedicated to "Carice", the portmanteau form name he derived from her two Christian names, Caroline Alice. The piece, one of the most popular Elgar ever wrote, earned him two guineas in its original form, with an orchestral version and the present arrangement for violin and piano. Later arrangements brought the composer a further ten guineas.


As Salut d’amour enjoy ed embarrassing popularity, so Debussy was haunted by the enthusiasm audiences showed for Claire de lune, part of his Suite bergamasque, nostalgically evocative of the world of Verlaine. His compatriot Jules Massenet’s Meditation from the opera Thais, written in 1894, was arranged for violin and piano by the Belgian violinist Marsick, pupil and successor of Massart at the Paris Conservatoire. Based on the work of Anatole France, Thais, typically enough, shows the conversion of the 4th century Egyptian courtesan Thais to Christianity by the monk Athanael, who himself falls victim to her charms, while she, following the example of other Massenet heroines, finds redemption, in this case as a nun.

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