Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962)

Fritz Kreisler was an Austrian born violinist and composer. His extraordinary talent became evident by the time he was four. He studied with his father and made such progress that by the age of six he was accepted as a pupil of Jacob Dont.

Shortly afterwards he was accepted to the Vienna Conservatory, first performing there at the age of nine. He was awarded the gold medal the following year. His musical studies then took him to the Paris Conservatory where he studied violin with Massartand composition with Delibes. He won the 1st prize for violin in 1887.

In 1888 he made his U.S. debut in Boston,touring the US with pianist Moriz Rosenthal but they had little success and Kriesler returned to Austria, applying for a position in the Vienna philharmonic but was turned down.

It was after this that he abandoned music to study medicine and art. Later he briefly served as an officer in the Austrian army before returning to the violin in 1889.

In 1899 he soloed with the Berlin Philharmonic launching his international career and during his U.S. tour in 1900, he took audiences by storm.He made his London debut with the Philharmonic Society Orchestra in 1902 and was awarded its Gold Medal in 1904. 

In 1910 Elgar composed a Violin Concerto for him and together they premiered the work in London.

 At the outbreak of World War I, Kreisler briefly joined his former regiment, but was honourably discharged after he was wounded. He then attempted to pursue his career in the U.S. but after the U.S. entered the war in 1917, he withdrew from public appearances until the war ended. 

After WWI he returned to Berlin and lived there from 1924 to 1934. however things began heating up in Germany and in 1938 he moved to France and became a French citizen. 

But with the beginning of WWII he decided to leave Europe and settle in the U.S. becoming an American citizen.

Kreisler's style was incredibly expressive and melodic and he had an accessible manner that made him the most beloved violinist. His colorful sound was rich with emotion and although Jascha Heifetz had more technical precision, he was also more emotionally detached than Kreisler.

For further insight into a Kreisler concert an account is found in “Siegfried Sassoon's 1928 autobiographical novel Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man.”

Kreisler himself published a book called Four Weeks in the Trenches: The War Story of a Violinist, a book of reminiscences of World War I.

Kreisler died in 1962 in New York City. He had been involved in a car accident that left him, during his last days, blind and deaf, but according to Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen who visited him frequently during that time, “he radiated a gentleness and refinement not unlike his music.

He is interred in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY.


All Golden Age String Players