1938 Recording: Manuel de Falla’s “Spanish Dance No. 1,” Fritz Kreisler

Manuel de Falla’s 1913 two act opera, La vida breve (“Life is Short”), is rarely performed today. Set in Granada, it tells the story of a young gypsy girl, Salud, who falls in love with the wealthy and seductive Paco. Despite their vow of eternal love, Paco abandons Salud to marry a woman of his own social class to whom he was already engaged. At the end of Paco’s wedding reception, he denies knowing Salud …

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“Berceuse Romantique”: Kreisler’s Journey into Impressionism

The legendary violinist Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) composed numerous short pieces “in the style” of earlier composers. Kreisler performed these works as encores at his concerts and successfully passed them off as originals (discovered in some dusty corner of a French monastery) until the hoax was uncovered in 1935. In addition to these clever exercises in pastiche, Kreisler wrote cadenzas for many of the standard violin concertos, four operettas, and popular songs such as Madly …

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Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies”: Fritz Kreisler’s 1927 Recording

Irving Berlin’s timeless 1926 song, Blue Skies, was a last-minute addition to a Rodgers and Hart musical called Betsy, produced by Florenz Ziegfeld. The vaudeville singer and actress, Belle Baker, called up Berlin complaining that the show’s score didn’t contain a “Belle Baker song.” According to Philip Furia and Michael Lasser, Berlin resented the interpolation of songs by other composers into the score of his shows, but he must have been delighted at the …

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Fritz Kreisler Plays “La Gitana”: 1938 Recording

Over the past few days, I haven’t been able to stop listening to this brief 1938 recording of the great Austrian-born violinist, Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962). There is something deeply alluring about Kreisler’s playing. Listen carefully to the distinct quality of his sound, with its warm soulfulness and far-off nostalgia. Also, notice the elegant phrasing and the way one note moves to another. Kreisler was fond of writing short pieces which imitated the …

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Fritz Kreisler’s “Preghiera,” Performed by Andrés Cárdenes

Preghiera, written in the style of Martini, may not rank among early twentieth century violinist Fritz Kreisler’s most well-known compositions. But it is undoubtedly one of his most beautiful and soulful miniatures. Written in 1911, Kreisler falsely attributed this piece to the eighteenth century Italian composer Giovanni Battista Martini (1706-1784). In an elaborate hoax, he frequently performed “newly-discovered” works of old composers, miraculously found in dusty old libraries and monasteries. In 1935, on his 60th …

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Liebesfreud: Five Classic Recordings

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here are five classic recordings of Liebesfreud (“Love’s Joy”) by the Austrian-born violinist Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962). This short piece comes from a world long past. It evokes the waltzing elegance and frothy charm of pre-war Vienna. Kreisler wrote it sometime before 1905 and deliberately mis-attributed it to Joseph Lanner (1801-1843), the composer of popular Austrian dance music. In a previous post, we listened to Liebesfreud re-imagined, spectacularly, by Sergei Rachmaninov, who accompanied …

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Five Great Perlman Recordings

This weekend, Itzhak Perlman will join the Richmond Symphony for our season-opening Masterworks program. The Mendelssohn Violin Concerto is on the program for this already-sold-out concert. And unlike this recent BNY Mellon TV commercial, it’s safe to assume Rhea Perlman will not be attempting to fill in. (That’s the introduction of the Mendelssohn in the background of the commercial). Perlman is one of a handful of musicians who has achieved genuine celebrity status …

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