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Fritz Kreisler

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Austria (1875 – 1962)

Fritz Kreisler (February 2, 1875 – January 29, 1962) was an Austria-born American violinist and composer; one of the most famous violinists of his day. He is noted for his sweet tone and expressive phrasing. He produced a characteristic sound, which was immediately recognizable as his own. Although he was a violinist of the Franco-Belgian school, his tone and phrasing are nonetheless reminiscent of the gemütlich lifestyle of pre-war Vienna.

Kreisler was born in Vienna to a Jewish father and a Roman Catholic mother; he was baptised at age twelve. He studied at the Vienna conservatory and in Paris, where his teachers included Léo Delibes, Joseph Hellmesberger, Jr., Joseph Massart, and Jules Massenet. He made his United States debut at Steinway Hall in New York on November 10, 1888, and his first tour of the United States in 1888/1889 with Moriz Rosenthal, then returned to Austria and applied for a position in the Vienna Philharmonic. He was turned down by the concertmaster Arnold Rose. Hearing a recording of the Rose Quartet it is easy to hear why-Rose was sparing in his use of vibrato, and Kreisler would not have blended successfully with the orchestra’s violin section. As a result, he left music to study first medicine, then painting. He spent a brief time in the army before returning to the violin in 1899, giving a concert with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Arthur Nikisch. It was this concert and a series of American tours from 1901 to 1903 that brought him real acclaim.

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