Viennese Music vol.3 ― Kreisler (18.Jun.2017)

Caprice Viennois.
Schön Rosmarin.
Yes, that’s correct.
All of these works were composed by Fritz Kreisler.
The composer who’s responsible for many of the violin showpieces that we hear and perform in modern concerts and for the extraordinarily creative model for violinists that has shaped the stylistic value of today’s artistic landscape.
He indeed was eminently talented, and so capable that the famous Polish pianist Ignaz Paderewski once said that he would’t have had his place had Kreisler instead been a ‘pianist’ ― fortunately he was a violinist.
At 23 he was already making his debut in Vienna with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the conductor Hans Richter.
Vienna certainly wasn’t (and still isn’t today) the easiest place in the world for a musician to make his career.
There, competition was stiff, expenses high, and music critics particularly harsh, half a year might pass before a musician could afford to risk giving a full concert. Even for the violinist and composer Louis Spohr, “Artistic performances in Vienna were measured by the highest standards and to succeed there was to qualify as a master.”
Caprice Viennois is a 4-minute piece which he wrote in 1910, consisting of three sections (the tripartite structure we’ve seen in the Strauss waltzes) with the introduction that is somewhat improvisational. The piece has a certain kind of nostalgic sentiment in reflecting the good all times of Vienna where he was born and the deep love and affection he had towards it. There’s also a recording of him playing it himself with pianist Franz Rupp in 1936, Berlin which I quite like.
Liebesfreud, Liebeslied, and Schön Rosmarin are often compiled in an album labeled as “3 Viennese Dances”.
As the title says, they are the very epitome of the traditional Vienese waltz notably in its rhythms and harmonies.


Like Strauss waltzes, Liebesfreud is found on a tripartite-basis and there are three different waltzes: the first one is happy, joyful, resolute, and energetic. The second waltz though is a dialogue between the violin and the piano with a slightly reduced sense of vigor. Then the third one modulates itself into F major which is a total change of scenery: it’s still happy but also more elegant and playful, with a hint of male dominance and female twists and turns.


 What I like to do when I play this waltz (the above), for example, is to begin slowly and curiously so that it gets much more flowery and propsperous later on. Those accents and sforzandi have a unique effect akin to Strauss’s polka ‘Thunder and Lightning’.
Kreisler was once controversial, because he published many of his works under the names of even greater composers like Beethoven, Pugnani and Couperin instead of his own. This was revealed long afer the critics had evaluated highly the pieces known as written by such composers, which left a scandalous dispution amongst the media and the public.
Is it because he felt insecure about his own works?
I do not know, honestly.
While it may have been a shocking event, I believe that people were also positively impressed by the fact that Kreisler had such an exceptional gift to produce original music that would not be challenged by any precedent composers. And it is worth emphasizing that he revived the traditional waltz danced in the previous century, improved it, and perfected it into his own dance music infused with love and humor.
– The End –
P.S. I really hope that you have enjoyed the Viennese Music series in my blog. Unfortunately I have only so much time and space for introducing and discussing stories of great music, but in the future I’ll be talking a lot about another topic that are full of insights and core values. Stay tuned for the updates!
P.P.S. Did you miss this?
“Wiener Blut” – the concert especially dedicated to presenting some of the most relevant and prominent Viennese repertoire will take place on Sunday 18th June 2017, at Cafe Montage in Kyoto. As spots have been grabbed more and more, you need to book yours before all of them are gone (the maximum is 40). Check the details and reserve your spot here —–>