The Kreisler Story

Author: 
Jeremy Nicholas
0300784BC. The Kreisler StoryThe Kreisler Story

The Kreisler Story

  • (24) Caprices, No. 13 in B flat
  • (24) Caprices, No. 20 in D
  • Liebesfreud
  • Grave in the style of W. F. Bach
  • (8) Etudes-Caprices, No. 4 in A minor
  • (8) Etudes-Caprices, No. 5 in E flat
  • Tempo di Menuetto in the style of Pugnani
  • Schön Rosmarin
  • Sonata for Violin and Continuo, 'Devil's Trill'
  • Danza española No. 1
  • Poupée valsante (Poldini)
  • (La) Chasse in the style of Cartier
  • Rosamunde, Fürstin von Zypern, No. 9, Ballet No. 2 in G
  • Moto perpetuo
  • (3) Sonatas and 3 Partitas, Partita No. 3 in E, BWV1006

At least two challenges face any violinist who plays Fritz Kreisler’s music. First, there are the inimitable recordings by Kreisler himself, sui generis and among the glories of the gramophone, to which any pretender must inevitably be compared. Secondly, can the violinist inhabit convincingly the same world and, at the same time, make Kreisler’s Sachertorten his own?

 

Daniel Röhn comes as close as I have heard on any all-Kreisler disc since James Ehnes (Analekta, 2/04). There is no attempt to emulate the master’s idiosyncrasies – the short bow strokes using the middle of the bow, the continuous vibrato, the portamento, the sharply dotted staccato – but the essential charm, rhythmic vitality, sweet tone and parlando phrasing are all there. What’s more, the programme mixes the familiar (Liebesfreud, Schön Rosmarin) with the less familiar (the two Wieniawski-Kreisler Caprices and the Grave in the Style of WF Bach), as well as boasting a world premiere.

This is the first recording of all six movements of Bach’s Partita No 3 in E, BWV1006, with Kreisler’s piano accompaniment. The Gavotte (the third movement, published in 1912 and recorded by Kreisler) is relatively well known. That and the opening Prelude are arguably also the most interesting movements but no one seems to have previously unearthed the other four. Sadly, the booklet yields no further information. Anyway, for those of us for whom the solo violin can quickly become too much like brown rice and lentils, Kreisler’s tasteful additions are a mischievous delight, especially the cat-and-mouse Prelude where the excellent Paul Rivinius comes into his own. It would surely have made Johann Sebastian smile.

The final track of the 21 is Kreisler’s own 1911 recording of La chasse (‘in the style of Jean-Baptiste Cartier’, to give the rest of the title, omitted in the track listing) mixed with Röhn and Rivinius’s. I’m not sure what we gain from this except to demonstrate that Kreisler was a genius and that Röhn is an exceptionally talented violinist well worth hearing.

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