Monday 28 November 2016

Daniel Röhn: The Fritz Kreisler story

Daniel Röhn - The Kreisler Story - Berlin Classics
The Kreisler Story music by Fritz Kreisler, and Kreisler arrangements of Paganini, Wienawski, Tartini, de Falla, Poldini, Schubert, Bach; Daniel Röhn, Paul Rivinius; Berlin Classics
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Nov 23 2016
Star rating: 4.0

The wit, charm and style of Fritz Kreisler re-captured for today

On this delightful disc from Berlin Classics the German violinist Daniel Röhn captures the spirit of the great violinist Fritz Kreisler for the modern day. Accompanied by pianist Paul Rivinius, Röhn plays mixture of Kreisler's own pieces and Kreisler's arrangements of everything from Paganini and Wienowski to De Falla and Bach, this latter is the first recording of Kreisler's arrangement of Bach's Partita No. 3.

Fritz Kreisler was one of those performers who combined immense technical ability with a very particular and personal performing style. You would never mistake his playing for someone else, and his choice of repertoire very much reflected his wit and style, particularly as he had no compunction at adjusting and revising music of other composers (and even writing his own pieces in the style of old masters). Whilst the odd Kreisler composition crops up as an encore item, to charm and delight, few violinists would dare to commit a whole disc to Kreisler's repertoire, but that is what Daniel Röhn does.

Daniel Röhn performing The Kreisler Story at Carnegie Hall
Daniel Röhn performing The Kreisler Story at Carnegie Hall
But Daniel Röhn is no ordinary violinist, he has the Austro-German violin style in his blood. He is the third generation of his family to play the violin, his father let the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra for nearly 30 years. His grandfather was the leader of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Furtwängler, and of course heard and met Kreisler, and told the young Daniel about his encounters. Daniel Röhn's own playing has been commended by Ruggerio Ricci, who remarked, 'His playing is reminiscent of the old masters.'

On this disc Daniel Röhn very much gives us Kreisler for the 21st century, and no bad thing either. Sensibly Daniel Röhn does not attempt to copy all of Kreisler's style whilst playing the discs, he gives the music a cleaner, more astringent edge, lacking Kreisler's immense sweetness (and vibrato). Where Röhn scores is that he plays the music straight, with a superb technical control combined with charm, wit and elegance. These latter are essential, as without the element of charm and the witty personal delivery, Kreisler's elaborations of past masters could fall flat.

The arrangements on the disc vary enormously, and with the Paganini and Wienawski caprices Kreisler seems to have added a piano part (something which seems surprising today), whilst with the Tartini Devils Trill Sonata he has realised the figured bass and added a cadenza of his own. Similarly the Bach Partita No. 3 has a complete keyboard part added. Other pieces like the De Falla Dance Espagnole are arranged from piano works.

Kreisler's own compositions were often hidden under pseudonyms, and he perfected the typical bon bouche sort of length. Also on this disc are the pieces in the style of WF Bach and Gaetano Pugnani, from a group which Kreisler originally passed of as compositions by these composers, something difficult to imagine nowadays. But we now have sufficient distance to be able to enjoy them simply as charming pastiches.`

I am not sure that I want to hear Bach's Partita No. 3 too often in Kreisler's souped up version with piano accompaniment, but in Daniel Röhn's hands it has far more than just period charm. The Bach/Kreisler Partita is certainly something of an acquired taste, and whilst Paul Rivinius is most stylish and discreet in the piano part you can't help thinking that it would be better without! But the last item in the disc is a complete delight, Röhn plays tag with a recording of the great violinist himself in a version of Kreisler's La Chasse.

The CD booklet is full of striking art-work, but whilst the articles touch on the charms of Kreisler's style more detailed information about the music is lacking.

This disc would make an ideal Christmas present for the lover of violin music. Simply put it on, and you cannot help but be charmed.

The Kreisler Story is also a concert format, so that you can hear Daniel Röhn playing live, his next two performances are:
See .Daniel Röhn's website for details

Niccolo Paganini, arr Kreisler - Caprice No. 13
Niccolo Paganini, arr Kreisler - Caprice No. 20
Fritz Kreisler - Liebesfreud
Fritz Kreisler - Grave in the Style of W. F. Bach
Henryk Wienawski, arr Kreisler - Caprice in a Minor
Henryk Wienawski, arr Kreisler - Caprice in E-flat Major
Fritz Kreisler - Tempo Di Minuetto in the Style of Gaetano Pugnani
Fritz Kreisler - Schön Rosmarin
Giuseppe Tartini, arr Kreisler - The Devil's Trill Sonata
Manuel de Falla, arr Kreisler - Danza Española
Poldini, arr Kreisler - La Poupée Valsante
Fritz Kreisler - La Chasse in the Style of Cartier
Franz Schubert, arr Kreisler - Ballet Music No. 2
Niccolo Paganini, arr Kreisler - Moto Perpetuo
Johann Sebastian Bach, arr Kreisler - Partita No. 3
Fritz Kreisler - La Chasse - Fritz Kreisler
Daniel Rohn (violin)
Paul Rivnius (piano)
Recorded at Emil-Berliner Studios, Berlin, December 2014
Berlin Classics 83007848C 1CD
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