The Kreisler Collection 1921-25
Fritz Kreisler's art does not travel comfortably into the 1990s, it's far too angst-free for our troubled age, too unequivocally sincere and lacking in cynicism. And yet it is the most wonderful violin playing imaginable, the sound of an old-world craftsman tending to every note as if it were holy writ, and no matter whether it is solo Bach or a popular song by Victor Herbert. The 48 recordings here, most of which were made via the horn rather than the microphone, are as many testimonies to an inimitable voice, one that even Kreisler's contemporaries revered and envied. The selections cover a four-and-a-half year chunk of his long-term contract with Victor and present him in surprisingly wide-ranging repertory. But don't start with the opening track, Brahms's fifteenth Waltz which, although rich-toned and robust, is not the equal of other selections. I'd advise dipping first into track 3, one of two recordings that Kreisler made of a Melody in A by former US Vice-President Charles G. Dawes (and strangely reminiscent of a much later pop song,
Cyril Scott's rather dour transcription of Cherry ripe turns up twice, the second time in lieu of Kramer's
As to comparisons between these recordings and those that the violinist made later, little need be said other than that the earlier discs often reveal a surer and stronger left hand (you can sometimes actually hear his fingers press on the finger-board) and a flood of tone that, like Caruso's—or indeed McCormack's—was miraculously accommodated by the recording horn. And the transfers are among Ward Marstons's best, clean originals have been used (although the HMVs are noticeably noisier than most of the Victors), and there is no evidence of electronic 'doctoring'. Time spent with these CDs is time allocated to the most profound variety of nostalgia. It's the sort of playing that conjures up some long-forgotten, Utopian world where kindness and gracious manners reigned where all was well and every violinist sounded like Fritz Kreisler.'