Fritz Kreisler

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Fritz Kreisler

Fritz Kreisler (born February 2, 1875 in Vienna , † January 29, 1962 in New York ) was an Austro-American violinist and composer .


Memorial plaque on Kreisler's birthplace in Vienna- Leopoldstadt

Kreisler was the son of the Jewish doctor Samuel Kreisler, who also treated Sigmund Freud . He received his first violin lessons from his father at the age of four. His mother Anna Reches ( Chaje Ribe in Fritz's birth register ) was a Roman Catholic , and he was baptized at the age of twelve . Georg Herlitz notes briefly: “K. has left Judaism ”. In 1882 he was accepted into the Conservatory of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna and was taught by Josef Hellmesberger junior (violin) and Anton Bruckner (music theory). He was only seven years old, making him the youngest “child prodigy” that was ever accepted. From 1885 to 1887 he studied at the Paris Conservatory , among his teachers there are particularly Lambert Joseph Massart (violin) and Léo Delibes (composition) as well as Jules Massenet . In 1887, when he was only 12 years old, he won the Paris Conservatory's premier award, the Premier Prix .

With the pianist Moriz Rosenthal he began his first concert tour through the USA in 1888/89 . On his return he applied to the Vienna Philharmonic , but was turned down because he could not read the paper properly. He stopped making music and began studying medicine and then painting and spent a short time in the army . In 1896 he began playing the violin again and made his debut in Vienna in 1898 before giving a concert with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Arthur Nikisch in 1899 . This concert and a series of tours in America from 1901 to 1903 earned him huge applause. In 1904 he received the gold medal from the British Royal Philharmonic Society .

During the crossing to the USA on board the Fürst Bismarck in May 1901, he met Harriet Lies (divorced Woerz), the daughter of a tobacco dealer in Brooklyn , whom he married in 1902 before the justice of the peace in New York City and in the Austrian embassy in London. In 1917 a church wedding followed in the Catholic parish of New Rochelle . She tamed the woman hero and gambler. His wife also became his manager and had her hands full with it, as in some years he played 250 concerts and more. A five-year record deal with the Victor Company alone is said to have brought him the unimaginable sum of 750,000 dollars.

The composition of his well-known character pieces also fell during this time . He made his first recordings and went on many concert tours. In 1910 Kreisler gave the premiere of Edward Elgar's Violin Concerto, which was dedicated to him.

Fritz Kreisler, 1930

During the First World War he served briefly in the Austrian army before he was honorably discharged after being wounded in Russia. From 1915 Kreisler lived with his wife in the USA and went on concert tours around the world. In 1923 his first tour to the Far East took place, where he had long been known for his recordings.

Former Berlin memorial plaque on the house in Berlin-Grunewald that was later built on the property at Bismarckallee 32a

In the early 1920s, Harriet and Fritz Kreisler settled in Berlin, initially on Kurfürstendamm . In the Berlin district of Grunewald , a real estate stock corporation founded by them in 1922 acquired the as yet undeveloped property at Bismarckallee 32/34/36 and built a large villa with an outbuilding for servants, which the couple lived from 1924 to 1939.

In the summer of 1933, the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler asked him to appear as a soloist with the Berliner Philharmoniker in the coming season. Kreisler declined on the grounds that the famous conductors Bruno Walter , Otto Klemperer and Fritz Busch had already been forced to leave Germany: “I am therefore determined to postpone my appearance in Germany until all artists have the right to work in Germany regardless of race, religion or nationality, has become an irrefutable fact. I trust that I will soon be able to make music with you. ”The National Socialists forbade the sale of his works and his recordings were no longer allowed to be played.

Although Fritz Kreisler no longer performed in Germany, he kept his residence in Berlin at the request of his wife. When the Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss , a friend of Kreisler, was murdered in office during the July putsch in 1934 , Kreisler was in Paris and expressed concerns that he too could soon be subject to a National Socialist Empire. Thereupon the Senator from Savoy offered him that he could be naturalized in France on the basis of an old law without waiting: “I will go to George Bonnet (the French Foreign Minister) and settle the matter. You can become French overnight! "

He celebrated his 60th birthday in 1935 in a small group in his Berlin villa. The radio stations broadcast commemorative programs around the world, but in Germany it was ignored. In the same year he received the Ring of Honor of the City of Vienna.

After Austria's annexation in March 1938, all residents of the country were asked to exchange their Austrian passports for German ones. Thereupon Kreisler accepted the French citizenship, which had already been offered in 1934. The German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop initially refused to recognize the validity of the new citizenship. To avoid diplomatic entanglements, Kreisler stayed near Monte Carlo . In May 1938, in recognition of his work, he was appointed commander of the French Legion of Honor .

In 1939 Fritz Kreisler still had his main residence in Berlin. From September 1939 until the end of his life, he lived in New York City and never returned to Europe. In 1943 he became a US citizen. His appearances became less frequent because of a car accident in 1941 that damaged his memory. He gave his last public concert in 1947. His Bell Telephone Hour radio broadcast, which he started in 1944, continued into the 1950s.

In January 1949, Kreisler had his collection of rare books, manuscripts and some art objects auctioned at the Parke-Bernet Galleries . He donated the raised over 120,000 US dollars to the Golden Rule Foundation and Lenox Hill Hospital .

On his 80th birthday, Fritz Kreisler was almost blind and could hardly hear anything. On January 29, 1962, after a brief hospital stay in New York, he died four days before his 87th birthday. His wife Harriet survived him by a year.

Kreisler's brother, the cellist Hugo Kreisler, fled with his family from Europe to the USA in 1938. The composer, singer and cabaret artist Georg Kreisler was an extensive relative of Fritz Kreisler.

In 1998 a memorial plaque was placed on the property of the Kreisler villa in Berlin, which was destroyed in 1945. Because of incorrect data about Kreisler's stay in Berlin, it was not taken into account again after the house was demolished. An updated memorial plaque is to be attached here again soon.


Opinions differ on Kreisler. From many - e.g. B. by the violin teacher Suzuki Shin'ichi - he is revered, but rejected by others. As his oldest audio document from 1904 shows, Kreisler had already developed a special warm tone at a young age, with which he cast a spell over his audience and through which, together with his compositions, he gave decisive impulses to the violin playing of the 20th century. This warm, melting tone corresponded to the legendary old Viennese violin sound (e.g. by Franz Clement or Ignaz Schuppanzigh ), which Joseph Mayseder passed on to Kreisler via Hellmesberger . The thesis that Kreisler was the inventor of the modern continuous vibrato is often quoted, but is historically not verifiable.

Kreisler's character pieces for violin and piano, which are based on old forms and styles, are still very well known today . These include in particular the three here Old Viennese dance tunes Liebesfreud and Liebesleid and Schön Rosmarin . They are tonal and characterized on the one hand by baroque and classic , on the other hand by the Viennese style . Some of these pieces were created in the style of other composers. Kreisler initially attributed many of these works (compiled in Classical Manuscripts ) to earlier composers such as Gaetano Pugnani and Giuseppe Tartini , until he confessed in 1935 that they actually came from him, thus causing a minor scandal that was rather embarrassing for music critics who hadn't recognized the dizziness.

In addition to a violin concerto in G major and a concerto for violin, string orchestra and organ in C major ( in the style of Antonio Vivaldi ), Kreisler also wrote the operettas Apple Blossoms (1919, together with Viktor Jacobi ) and Sissy as well as a string quartet in A minor and some songs . His cadences , including one for Johannes Brahms ' violin concerto, are still important today . His cadenza for the violin concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most frequently played cadenzas of this work today, alongside that by Joseph Joachim .

Kreisler was a composing virtuoso in the style of Niccolò Paganini , who brought his compositions to the people on his major concert tours. His works can be played by violinists with different abilities. Eugène Ysaÿe dedicated the fourth of his six solo sonatas to Kreisler.

Kreisler's violins

Kreisler owned an impressive violin collection with excellent violins, for example - some he only played - by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù and Carlo Bergonzi. The latter became known as the Kreisler-Bergonzi .

  • Guarneri del Gesù (1733). Gift of Kreisler to the Library of Congress in Washington, DC in 1952
  • Guarneri del Gesù (1735). Belonged to Mary Portman
  • Guarneri del Gesù (1740) "Tiger", which later belonged to Benno Rabinoff.
  • Jean Baptiste Vuillaume (1845), owned by Kreisler until 1960, on loan to Joseph Hassid and now owned by Yong-Uck Kim.
  • Stradivarius (1726) "Greville". Kreisler only owned it for a year. Sold to Lyan & Healy.
  • Stradivari (1733) "Kreisler", which also belonged to Bronisław Huberman and Johanna Martzy. Today Daniel Tschudi.
  • Stradivari (1711) "Earl of Plymouth" is now part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra .
  • Stradivari (1727) "Hart", came into possession of Zino Francescatti and then Salvatore Accardo .
  • Stradivari (1732) “Baillot” had previously heard of Pierre Baillot and Eugène Sauzay.
  • Stradivari (1734) "Lord Amherst of Hackney", also played by May Harrison and Benno Rabinoff. Kreisler sold it to the Wurlitzer company in 1945.
  • Pietro Guarneri de Mantoue (1707), bought in 1967 from Earl Carlyss (second violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet ).
  • "Carlo Bergonzi" later belonged to Itzhak Perlman .
  • Alessandro Gagliano.
  • Giovanni Grancino.
  • Gand and Bernardel.
  • Daniel Parker (1720) built in London


  • Fritz Kreisler: Four Weeks in the Trenches. - Kreisler's memories of participating in the First World War in the Austrian army (in English). - in the Internet Archive - online. (German edition: Despite the roar of the cannon - Front report of a virtuoso , Vienna 2015, ISBN 978-3-99200-135-4 .)
  • Fritz Kreisler: Mr. Kreisler Talks. In: Strand Magazine. Vol. 67, 1927, pp. 178-183.
  • Fritz Kreisler: The Great Kreisler Hoax. In: Etude. 69, 1951.
  • Henry Roth: The King of Violinists. An Appraisal of Fritz Kreisler's extraordinary Life and Achievements. In: The Strad. (Kreisler special edition). Vol. 98, No. 1161, 1987, pp. 23-29.
  • Thomas-M. Langner:  Kreisler, Fritz. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 12, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1980, ISBN 3-428-00193-1 , p. 738 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Arnold Craig Bell: Fritz Kreisler Remembered: A Tribute. Merlin Books, Braunton, Devon 1992, ISBN 0-86303-605-8
  • Amy Biancolli: Fritz Kreisler. Love's Sorrow, Love's Joy. Amadeus Press, Portland, Oregon, 1998 (with discography), ISBN 1-57467-037-9
  • Joachim W. Hartnack: Great violinists of our time. 3. Edition. Atlantis, Zurich 1983, ISBN 3-254-00020-X
  • Roger Hauert (photos), Marc Pincherle (text): Fritz Kreisler. Kister, Geneva 1956. (illustrated book)
  • Louis Paul Lochner : Fritz Kreisler. Macmillan, New York / London 1950. (with catalog raisonné, bibliography) (German edition: Vienna, Bergland-Verlag 1957)
  • Frederick Herman Martens: Violin Mastery. Stokes, New York 1919, pp. 99-109.
  • Bruce R. Schueneman: The Search for the minor Composer: The Case of Fritz Kreisler. In: Music Reference Services Quarterly. 1996, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 25-49.
  • Andrea Linsbauer, The Viennese Moment in the Compositions of Fritz Kreisler , Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2009, ISBN 978-3-631-56267-3 .


Kreisler made several hundred records between 1904 and 1946. They are collected for example at:

  • Fritz Kreisler / Lamson, Carl / MacCormack, John / O'Brien, Vincent: Fritz Kreisler - The complete RCA recordings, Hamburg, Munich 1995.
  • Works sorted by genre

A complete list of his solo recordings, compiled by Eric Wen, can be found in the Kreisler special edition of The Strad from 1987 (see above).

See also: Entries on Fritz Kreisler in the catalog of the German Music Archive (see below "Weblinks")

Web links

Commons : Fritz Kreisler  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Jewish Violinists (English)
  2. Recordings with Victor Records
  3. ^ Handbook of German Stock Companies , 30th edition. Berlin 1925, p. 255 f.
  4. ^ House numbers and owners according to various years of the Berlin address books; The villa and outbuildings were destroyed during the Second World War and have not been preserved, the plaque pictured was attached to one of the houses that were later built on this property.
  5. ^ Louis P. Lochner: Fritz Kreisler. Vienna 1957, p. 231.
  6. ^ Berlin address book, 1939 edition, part IV, p. 1295.
  7. Berlin memorial plaque
  8. ^ Contribution to German biography
  9. Representation in Schott Musik
  10. Kreisler violins listed ( memento from September 19, 2012 in the Internet Archive )