Paper written and present by Sheila Barr in 1958
A Wunderkind is born on February 2, 1875.
From the time of Kreisler's birth in Vienna, Austria, it was apparent that music was to be his whole life. He learned hs notes before his A,B,C,'s.
His father, a frustrated musician, taught him the fundamentals of music and he learned quickly to detect when any sour note.
Kreisler made his first violin from a cigar box; and when he was four years old, one of the quartet members gave him a toy violin.
From that time on, Fritz joined inthe playing and soon had a genuine violin, given to him by his father. Jacque Auber, a concertmaster a the theater was his first real teacher.
His father soon recognized the fact that Fritz had surpassed him in playing and he laid his own violin aside while Fritz continued to improve. He was so good, that at the age of seven he was accepted at the Vienna Conservatory.
This was the first time any pupil had been accepted under th age of ten. His first engagement to play was with Carlott Patti, and his pay was a box of candy.
His first public concert was given in 1884, when he won the gold medal. His prize for winning was a three-quarter Amati, but he did not fully appreciate its value because he wanted a full size violin.
Fritz Kreisler's boyhood was not like other boys' because he was not permitted to join in any of hte sports for fear of injuring his hands. But he
was content; and he continued to get better instruments to play on and better teacheers. He taught himself to play the piano and was so good on it that Paderewski was heard to exclaim, "I'd be starving if Kreisler had taken up the piano. How beautifully he plays."
During the years of 1865 to 1887, Fritz furthered his education by receiving a scholarship to study in Paris. The extra expense of having his mother in Paris
with him was a drain on the family's finances and Fritz's father was forced to be more urgent in colleting bills owed him for his services. He progressed rapidly in Paris and loved the city. His first opportunity in conducting came here when the condutor scheduled
did not appear and Kreisler took over, this was another triumph for him.
He went on tour in America with Rosenthal, a wizard at the piano, and as a parting gift, his father presented him with a Grancino violin, which cost $1000.
Kreisler made his first professional bow in the United States at new York in Steinway Hall with Conrad Ansorage from Berlin, Germany. Everyone agreed that he was a fine violinist but needed more study.
Above -Kreisler signed postcard available for sale montagnanabooks.com
1889-1898 - "A Young Man"
The years went by and the fiddle yielded to the pen, scapel and sword. When he returned to Paris, he settled down to organize study so that he could pass military trining for a reserve lieutenant's commission. After passing this, he began the study of medicine which he continued for two years, but then dropped it. All this time he had not touched the violin but was in active service in the army from 1895 to 1896.
The old yearning for music returned, and he decided to take up the violin as a life's career. He started playing for his room and board. After composing, at the age of nineteen, the two famous cadenzas for Beethoven's Vioin Concerto, he applied for the position of second desk at the Vienna (Court opera) Orchestra. He was denied this position because the auditioner said he could not sight read. This was not true,
but at any rate, he continued with his solo work and met and made many friends. Some of these friends were quite wealthy, and he was invited to take a cruise on the Mediterranean. While in Constantinople, he
met the Austrian Ambassador and he arranged for Fritz to play for the Sultan. The Sultan was so impressed with his concert that he gave him one hundred Turkish pounds.
Soon after this, Kreisler received an offer to go to Russia on a concert tour. This was only one of several trips he made to Russia. An incident occured that might have had serious consquences and which seems typical of what might happen even today.
While in Russia, he became smitten with a girl from Finland who persuaded him to break his command performance for the Czar and accompany her to Finland.
He had almost reached the border when the Czar's police caught him and took his passport and informed him that he was no longer welcome in that country and to leave Russia. Fortunately, this episode did not prove too serious, and he played in Russia on numerous other occasions.
Kreisler returned to Vienna, where he appered with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra as a soloist with the famous Hans Richter as Conductor. His life in Vienna was pleasant and profitable.
In one of Vienna's famous cafes, the Grunsteidl, a table was set aside for famous or elegant people, and at such a table one of the most distinguished guests was Johannes Brahms. Kreisler counted it aprivilege to be present when his hero, Brahms, was at this table. Thes meetings were of great importance
to Kreisler since views and criticisms were exchanged wtih the great composers of the day, who did not think of commercializing their talents.
It was during one of these meetings that Kreisler was urged, by Brahms, to revise the Fantasie in C Major for violin which Robert Schumann had composed, and which had not found favor with the musicians then. It took Kreisler twenty years to complete the task, but during his concert tour in 1915-16, he
included it in his repertoire. For twenty more years he worked on it, and after forty years work it stands in its final form, a labor of love.
"Concert Tours in Europe and more Fame & Love"
Fritz Kreisler had formed a strong friendship with Ernst Posselt which resulted in his introduction to music critics in Berlin, Germny. He scored notable success when he was only twenty-two years old. His friend Posselt even saw to it that he was properly dressed for the occasion and even furnished him with a Stradivarius for his concerts. the young violinist emerged from all this friendly concern, a handsome young man with a mustache turned up at the ends in the style of Emporer Wilhelm II.
As a consequence of all his success in Berlin, Kreisler had no trouble getting well paid bookings and during the years 1900-1902, he gave concerts in France
Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, and the Scandanavian Countires, as well as England and America, where he established himself firmly in the hearts of music lovers.
It was during these years that Kreisler and Scotti, the Metropolitan Opera star, became friends and even rivals for the same girl in Itlay which neither one eventually got.
It was while returning to Europe form America that Kreisler met and fell in love with Harriett Lies. She was a divorcee, but from the very first, they seemed completely suited to each other. Religious reasons proved a small handicap, and they had three marriage ceremonies. A civilian ceremony in America in 1902, another in London in 1903, and finally a Roman Catholic ceremony in 1947, after special permission from the Pope.
Click above violin picture to view larger version
"Life With Harriett"
Harriett had a marked effect on Fritz Kreisler. Her every word was law to him, and she changed his whole way of life.
He loved her for it and gave her credit for making him the great musician and personality that he is. Her critics said that she managed him too much, but in his eyes, she could do no wrong, and he relied on her judgement, which usually proved very good. She was also one of the most generous women with charities, and contributed great sums of money to underprivileged children and war orphans.
By this time, music was the very essence of Kreisler's life, and he worked long hard hours at mastery of the violin and in composing. At one time, he held the record for giving concerts. It is said that he gave fifty-seven concerts in seventy-two days. One of his friends remarked that he gave so many concerts, he didn't need to practice. He was playing all the time anyway.
He never seemed to tired of working with musical scores and often sacrificed his rest by working out some revision for orchestra. He said that he never practiced before a concert. He felt that it made his imagination less acute and had a tendency to deaden his alertness. He did not want to become tired of a compostion and wanted to enjoy what he was playing. He said most of his real practice went into his formative years when he was a struggling
musician and not in his later years. His uncanny memory for remembering whole scores has never beensurpassed.
The years from 1902 to 1914, Kreisler has called one rich in experience. He traveled with his friend, the noted tenor, John McCormack. Kreisler also had a close associations with his friends, Enrico Carouso and George Bernard Shaw.
On one occasion, he had an invitation to tea with the Queen of England, but since the invitation did not include Harriett, he declined. The Queen apologized for her oversight and included Harriett, in the invitation. Since it had not been many years since fiddling of any sort in England was classed as the music of rogues and beggars, it was quite a feather in his cap, when he was asked to give concerts for the royal family in England.
Thus, the prejudice against violinists disappeared.
Tours to the other side of the Atlantic became annual affairs while Fritz and Harriett resided in England. He loved the rich, broad American scenery, especially
when he could drive his own car. Once, during a drive through the high Sierra country, he nearly ran off the road while pointing to the scenery. Harriett decided that he should do no more driving, and at her insistance, he gave up his pleasure.
Mr. Kreisler had a pixie sence of humor about his playing. At one time, he included in his concerts, several short, beautiful pieces which he told his audience had been composed by monks and old masters and which he had rescued from an ancient monastery. In reality, they were his own compositions, and he later had them published as his own when his finances became strained.
Kreisler never had formal pupils but was generous in showing some of the tricks of the trade to deserving young musicians. One young man who tired to imitate him was Jascha Heifetz, and Kreisler helped him all he could.
Also during the years previous to World War One, Kreisler made phonograph records. These were the cylindrical discs, and some of these discs are locked in the vaults of the Paris Opera, not to be disturbed until the year 2007. The composition "Humoreske" by Anton Dvorak, was a favorite one of Kreisler's and his arrangement for violin is famous.
Available 2002 Kreisler Music
"The War Years - Disillusion"
Kreisler was called to active duty in 1914 and canceled all concert engagements to become a lieutenant in the Austrian Army. The fact that he was sent into the combat zone aroused the public, but Kreisler took it all in stride and gave concerts for th benefit of the Red Cross.
A false report of his death was circulated, and although seriously injured, he returned to home; and to Harriett.
His injuries made him unfit for more military service and he returned to the United States, where his appearance caused some hostility. Austria nd Germany were both unfriendly to America.
His first apperance after the Armistice, was in Carnegie Hall in 1919. He was given a rousing ovation. the followed concerts abroad, and all war bitterness was forgotten as far as he was concerned.
His last objective was won when he was awarded an officer's place in the French Legion of Honor.
His trip to the Orient was marred by earthquakes, bandits, and typhoons. Everywhere Kreisler was loaded with priceless gifts which eventually found haven in their beautiful home which they built in a wooded area near Berlin. This mansion, their first permanent home, was a showplace of all the art treasures he had gathered during his travels.
Even at this time Germany was again getting into a state of chaos. When the Kreisler's left their home in 1939, they never saw it again; for it was destroyed in the bombing raids over Germany. He took up residence in the south of France, and in order to escape Nazi persecution, he became a French citizen. Thereafter, a blanket of silence was placed on Kreisler's works in Germany.
America pulled him to her shores again late in 1939, and this has been his home ever since. The collapse of his beloved Austria saddened him. He took the oath of allegience in 1943 an became an American citizen. He met with a serious accident in New York soon after this, but no lasting ill effects were apparent.
After completely recovering, he enterd the field of radio where he appeared on the Bell Telephone Hour in 1944.
During his lifetime, Kreisler collected many fine violins. Another of his hobbies, was collecting rare books. Harriet put a stop to this as often as she found out about it because she thought he was wasting good money on something of no value to him.
But violin makers reaped a harest by lending him a violin to use in a concert and on its return, sell it for a huge sum because is had been used by the Master. His favorite instrument was a fine Guarnerius. He said it had the most power for concerts although the Stradivarius was excellent for small halls. He was equally broad in the use of the bow and strings. He did not use any one to the exclusion of the other.
Critics say that he did not keep a diary nor scrapbook, which is a pity, nor did he keep his manuscripts.
For sixty-one years, Fritz Kreisler stood on the concert platform. Quite an impressive record. His last public appearance was in Carnegie Hall on November first 1947. The occasion was his seventy-fifth birthday and a huge celebration and tribute was given him in the ballroom of the Ritz Hotel in New York City.
His latest address as listed in Who's Who and A.S.C.A.P. is Number 2, Sutton Place, New York City.