It’s slightly misleading to call this classical: it’s a bloke playing popular tunes on the violin, so it’s really pop music, just pop from the days when a new tune was Dame Clara Butt singing Old Folks At Home.
Austrian-born Kreisler was busy after WWI with a comeback in America, world tours, and a warm welcome in England after being considered an enemy alien during the war. He recorded these tracks there or thereabouts.
From his photo, he looks a nice chap: the sleeve notes say his brother Hugo, who plays cello, wrote six short compositions for an impecunious friend to sell to music publishers, the profits financing the rest of his mate’s music course. Hugo himself was a good enough cellist to sit next to the principal of the Vienna Konzertverein Orchestra for several years.
Kreisler’s playing was at its peak when he made these recordings, benefiting from using his favourite 1733 Stradivarius (as it would).
We’ve spent a lot of time writing about World War I and appreciated these recordings, as they’re what people would have listened to then; Kreisler did much to establish the gramophone as part of people’s domestic furniture.
Despite the modern wizardry for audio restoration and remastering, the recordings still sound gloriously crackly and dated, and you can imagine Mr and Mrs Miggins gathering round the new-fangled gramophone to wonder at the skilled playing right there in their front room.
The pieces here are a mix of classical (Beethoven, Wagner, Bach) and traditional (Londonderry Air, Russian folk tunes) played by the Kreislers, and Charlton Keith and Carl Lamson on piano. It’s got charm and it’s definitely staying on our desk for repeated plays, its mix of sentimentality and charm, coupled with excellent playing, being highly appealing.
Out on Naxos Historical, 8.111406.