Viennese Rhapsodic Fantasietta

March 11, 2018: Benjamin Beilman, Violin; Orion Weiss, piano

One of the most revered musical artists of the 20th century, Fritz Kreisler was born in Vienna on February 2, 1875, the son of a music-loving physician. In addition to becoming one of the last century’s undisputed masters of the violin, Kreisler composed a string quartet, a violin concerto, two operettas, and cadenzas for concerti by Brahms, Mozart, and Beethoven. His most famous works, however, and some of the most beloved pieces in the string repertoire, are his perfectly crafted salon pieces for the violin.

In 1938, following the annexation of Austria by the Nazis, Kreisler accepted the French government’s offer of citizenship. With the opening of hostilities in 1939 he emigrated permanently to the United States, becoming an American citizen in 1943. His sweetly melancholy Viennese Rhapsodic Fantasietta, composed in the early 1940s, evokes the waltzing spirit of his native city as recalled from the better times of his youth.

When Fritz Kreisler died In New York City at 86 on January 30, 1962, the New York Times published a glowing account of his life and accomplishments that included the following tribute:

“Mr. Kreisler was the conquering hero of the violin for more than a half century. No man’s art was ever more familiar to a great public than his, nor was any artist more loved by that public. His artistry was a compound of intellectual substance and brilliant technical equipment that truly stamped him as a “violinist’s violinist.” It was not only the sheer brilliance of his art that endeared him for so many years, but also his simplicity and modesty as an artist…[In his youth,] Mr. Kreisler was one of the relatively few true “Wunderkinder.” From the age of 10, when he won the first prize and gold medal for violinists at the Vienna Conservatory, where he studied under Hellmesberger, he was phenomenal in the strictest sense of the word…This country first saw him in 1888, when a shy, slender child of 13, garbed in tight trousers and high-tasseled boots — a Viennese from head to toes — played the pyrotechnical and exacting “Fantasie Caprice” of Vieuxtemps at Steinway Hall here. There are those who remember that his tones were as clear, warm and as searching as they were in his matured years. His name became a household word throughout the land.”

© Michael Parloff

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