The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (6)

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (6)


norman lebrecht

March 23, 2020

The most reassuring violinist that ever lived, in a wonderfully arcance recording from 1924:

Courtesy of Brinton Smith


  • fflambeau says:

    Are great violinists meant to be “reassuring”?

    We have never heard the great Paganini because he was before recordings but the best I’ve heard (I don’t know what “reassuring” means or has to do with anything) are David Oistrakh and Jascha Heifitz. Menuhin is also up there.

  • I suspect this will be unknown to many as it is to me and it’s a wonderful discovery. Is this Kreisler’s own arrangement? It’s very straightforward and hearing it keyed a half-step higher than Korngold’s original gives it quite a different color. Kreisler plays it rather fast and in doing so he transforms it into a Viennese bon-bon whose character is quite different from the pathos Pierrot invests in “Mein Sehnen”. Thanks, Brinton! Kreisler is always welcome.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      Kreisler is “reassuring” in the sense that as you cue the “needle” in place you are utterly comfortable knowing what you are about to hear. Compare to, say, Ricci, who could raise eyebrows.

      I never heard Oistrakh “live” but the concert films I have seen have in common with Nathan Milstein’s stage demeanor and comportment, which I did see, a conveyed feeling of comfort that “this is going to go very well.” Compare to, say, Salerno-Sonnenberg, who visually looks like anything can happen (although she can play beautifully).

      So yes I do think there are “reassuring” violinists.

      When it comes to 10″ 78s which I believe this is, one never knows whether the performers are really taking their preferred tempos or not. But the younger Kreisler was not prone to wallow in slow tempos.

      No source available to me says that this arrangement is by Kreisler, but Kreisler was quite capable of improvising (and transposing) off a piano reduction for the opera itself, so perhaps one could call this a Kreisler arrangement, but not published as such. He recorded many short works, including popular songs of his day, for which no published arrangements seem to have existed.

      Schott has published the Tanzlied for violin and piano, and Detlef Hahn has recorded it as part of what is billed as the complete Korngold music for violin and piano. It is also available as sheet music for cello and piano. Korngold himself arranged some of his pieces as short works for violin and piano and my hunch is that the published versions are Korngold’s work.

  • Carter Brey says:

    Never heard this recording before. How lovely. what a wonderful artist Fritz Kreisler was. Thank you for posting this.

  • Byrwec Ellison says:

    Perhaps “reassuring,” in part, after what he’d lived through 10 years earlier as a front line Austrian army officer facing the Russians at the disastrous Battle of Lemberg. From Kreisler’s brief memoir, “Four Weeks in the Trenches: The War Story of a Violinist”…

    “On the evening of that third day, knowing that our ammunition was giving out, we felt that the next day would bring the end, and all our thoughts turned homewards and to the dear ones. We all wrote what we considered our parting and last farewell, each one pledging himself to deliver and take care of the letters of the others if he survived. It was a grave, sad, deeply touching moment, when we resigned ourselves to the inevitable, and yet somehow we all felt relieved and satisfied that the end might come and grimly resolved to sell our lives dearly.

    “Never before had I as much reason to admire the wonderful power of endurance and stoicism of our soldiers as on that night. Once resigned to the worst, all the old-time spirit returned, as if by magic. They sat together playing cards in as much moonlight as would fall into the deep trench, relating jokes and bolstering up one another’s courage.”

  • Greg Bottini says:

    A predictably warm and beautiful record by my favorite violinist, the great Fritz Kreisler. Thanks for putting this up, Norman.
    And yes – FK can certainly be described as “reassuring”.

  • Russell Platt says:

    I think Norman’s on to something with the “reassuring” comment. There is something incredibly humane about Kreisler’s playing, there is always wisdom behind the warmth. And the Korngold, when was it written, ’21? It tells you something about the popularity of opera back then: the Tanzlied was a “hit.”