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Music: Unannounced Anniversary

2 minute read

Last month lion-jawed Pianist Moriz Rosenthal celebrated the soth anniversary of his U. S. debut by playing a special gold-lacquered piano in Manhattan’s Carnegie Hall (TIME, Nov. 21). Forgotten at the time by most Manhattan concertgoers was the fact that Pianist Rosenthal’s U. S. debut in 1888 was not a one-man show. Billed as assisting artist on that program was another U. S. debutant: a self-effacing, dark-eyed, 13-year-old Viennese violinist named Fritz Kreisler. In their excitement over Pianist Rosenthal’s galloping fingers, the Manhattan critics nearly forgot to mention Infant Prodigy Kreisler. But in the years that followed his U. S. reputation grew until he was regarded as world’s No. 1 violinist.

Last week Violinist Kreisler might have announced that he was commemorating the 50th anniversary of his U. S. debut. But his first Manhattan appearance of the season, which drew throngs to Carnegie Hall, was billed as just another concert. Concertgoers who went to hear him had long since ceased to expect prodigies of technique or tone from 63-year-old Kreisler. What they expected, and got, was an afternoon of leisurely, charming, old-school fiddling such as only Fritz Kreisler can put on. Kreisler’s playing is to the exact, nervous fiddling of today what a Kentucky colonel’s drawl is to the feverish staccato of a prizefight announcer.

An able pianist as well as a violinist, Fritz Kreisler is also widely known for his compositions, chief among them a sheaf of ingratiating light violin pieces (Caprice Viennois, Tambourin Chinois, etc.) which are played by all of today’s important fiddlers. In 1902 he married a U. S. woman, Harriet Lies, daughter of Tobacco Merchant George P. Lies. Violinist Kreisler has a belief that if one has practiced well in youth, the fingers should hold their suppleness in later years. Says Wife Harriet: “He would be a better violinist if he practiced more.”

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