Homage à Fritz Kreisler

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COMPOSERS: Fritz Kreisler and other composers
LABELS: BMC
ALBUM TITLE: Kreisler
WORKS: Homage à Fritz Kreisler
PERFORMER: Barnabás Kelemen (violin), Zoltán Kocsis (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BMC CD 250

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Kreisler was both one of the most gifted violinists of any age and a talented composer. His exceptional output of self-penned miniatures (all featured in this recital) includes such evergreens as Tambourin chinois, Liebesleid, Liebesfreud, Schön Rosmarin and Caprice viennois. His consummate skill as an arranger can also be savoured in affectionate recastings of Dvorák (Humoresque and Slavonic Dance No. 2) and Tchaikovsky (Andante cantabile). Kreisler almost came unstuck, however, when in 1935 he admitted that a number of pieces ‘in olden style’ he had passed off as by the likes of Pugnani, Louis Couperin and Boccherini (they’re here as well) were in fact his own work!

The general tendency in this music is towards affectionate nostalgia, as witness Itzhak Perlman (EMI/Warner), Shlomo Mintz (DG/Pentatone) and Henryk Szeryng (Mercury/Philips). More recently, Kees Hülsmann and Marian Bolt (Challenge) cleared away decades of interpretative accretion with clear-focused zeal, and from the opposite end of the spectrum now come Barnabás Kelemen and Zoltán Kocsis, whose last recording this sadly was. Brimming with life, theirs is the playing of two friends making music for the sheer joy of it, inflecting phrases with gleeful spontaneity. Occasionally, as in the gentle ‘Beethoven’ Rondino, it becomes almost too much of a good thing for such innocent plaisanteries, yet in the swaggering Gypsy Caprice their charismatic intensity proves hard to resist.

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Julian Haylock