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(1868 - 1944)

After completing his formal training, Drdla lived and worked almost exclusively in Vienna, becoming known predominantly as a composer: his works were championed by Jan Kubelík, Marie Hall, Mischa Elman and Joseph Szigeti, amongst others. His compositional style, as with a number of his contemporaries, reflects his middle-European ethnicity in a fusion of rustic Hungarian and Bohemian melodies with the elegance of Western-looking Vienna. His 1923–1925 tour of the USA, however, seemed to result in a fascination with the jazz genre, which he attempted to liken to his own experience of folk music:

‘Folk music of this type (if you want to call the artificialities of jazz folk music) seems to spring into existence after times of great deprivation such as those that accompany great wars. The Waltz, for instance, seemed to spring into international currency just after the French Revolution, as a kind of irrepressible expression of joy and liberty from restriction…At the end of the great war, American ragtime simply went wild and that was jazz. Like many things it proved very infectious and soon the whole world was inoculated. European nations should not condemn American jazz as long as its perpetrators seem to enjoy it even more at times than the native Americans.’

Drdla wrote over 250 salon pieces, predominantly for violin and piano. Best known are his Serenade No. 1 (1901) and Souvenir (1904), the latter of which he recorded. He also composed three operettas, a violin concerto (1931), a piano trio, songs and part songs. A review in The Musical Times, August 1909, suggested that ‘few violin composers of the present day have advanced more rapidly than Franz Drdla […] Brilliancy in the violin part, originality of themes, many tenderly persuasive passages, and attractive pianoforte accompaniments, all these combine to make the composer a favourite among violinists.’ Drdla dedicated his Serenade to his great friend Jan Kubelík who adopted it as something of a theme tune. He performed it constantly on tour in Europe and the USA and it was often billed as the ‘Kubelík’ Serenade.

Drdla’s own playing style as revealed by his recordings is articulate and accurate with infrequent use of vibrato, although this is slow and wide where it does occur. In his Souvenir performance (1920) and the 1903 recording of his Chopin arrangement one can also hear his penchant for pronounced portamenti and a fascinatingly free approach to his own notated rhythms, no doubt influenced by his links to folk music traditions.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)

Role: Classical Composer 
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