Recording with Kreisler's piano roll of Caprice Viennois

February 1, 2018, 11:15 PM · Happy Birthday, Mr. Kreisler - and Mr. Heifetz!

After writing about Kreisler the pianist, I continued to listen to the recordings particularly the Caprice Viennois that was recorded by Veikko Viljanen. What I found MOST extraordinary was that while listening to this recording, I totally didn’t miss the violin. It almost sounded as if the piece were MEANT for the piano.

The piano roll was made in 1920 and originally cost $2.00. Adjusting for inflation that is about $26.09 today. It wasn’t inexpensive to have Kreisler play in your home. But you could hear him play it again and again I suppose. And if you thought your mp3 player was a large investment, think about buying a piano?

Listening to it carefully, I wondered if I could learn more about this piece from the piano performance than from his violin performance. In essence, Kreisler is in control of the melody and the accompaniment. He is free do whatever he wants WHENEVER he wants. There are some small notation changes as there are in his own violin recordings. However no matter what he does, it feels correct.

Could I learn the piece better if I followed him with this playing the piano part? So for fun, I decided to record with the Fritz Kreisler piano roll. Though I wasn’t quite with him, I thought, man, I get to play with Fritz Kreisler!

It reminded me of those duet recordings of famous recording artitsts that have passed away and people do virtual duets with them. I suppose the first big use of this was Nat King Coles recording of Unforgettable with his daughter Natalie.

In pop music it is the practice to record parts separately. Which is how the Beatles were able to do much of their innovative things. When they decided to record two new songs for an Anthology collection, they didn’t want to be the Threetles so they got two songs from Yoko Ono and worked at it as if John Lennon had gone out for a “cup of tea”

As today is Kreisler AND Heifetz’s birthday I am happy to share this multi track version of Bach Double Violin Concerto.

I mean they do say there was only one Heifetz……I guess he had to clone himself if he wanted a partner!

My favorite multi track recording is actually of another violinist playing the piano. Artur Gruimaux grew up playing both the piano and the violin.

Kreisler was good friends with Sergei Rachmaninoff. The story of the two of them playing the Beethoven Kreutzer together and Kreisler getting lost is a great one, even if it turns out not to be true. Kreisler got lost and started to improvise. Rachmaninoff was bemused and followed him rather than helping him. Rachmaninoff who had been described as a six foot tall scowl, followed him at every turn, “Sergei, where are we?” Kreisler asked, to which Rachmaninoff replied “Carnegie Hall.”

They recorded a number of sonatas together and it was Rachmaninoff who wanted to do more takes, while Kreisler felt that each take they had was wonderful and they didn’t need to do it again. These were two very different personalities.

However, Zenph Sound Innovations decided that they wanted to take old recordings of pianists and digitize them then feed them into computer for analysis and reproduce that on a modern piano. They made cd’s of Glenn Gould, Art Tatum and most importantly for this blog Sergei Rachmaninoff. This allowed Joshua Bell to record part of the Greig Violin Sonata with the great Russian pianist composer

Bell described the experience: “When I first played it, it was really eerie because it feels like Rachmaninoff is in the room. You see the keys going down, you feel the nuance, and if you squint you feel like he’s actually there.”

I felt strange working with the recording. I have been playing the piece since I was a young student and whatever way I play it has become almost second nature. But then again, who am I to argue with Kreisler? In this case, I was relearning the piece to fit the pianist. Some things I had learned form the violin recordings, I had to unlearn. He really had an incredible rubato and sometimes played MUCH faster on the piano than he would have on the violin.

I have read from some sources that there could be some manipulation in the recording as wrong notes could be repaired and speeds could be adjusted. I still think it reflects what Kreisler wanted.

Indeed, I found it quite a joy to play this piece with Kreisler on the piano., but what did I learn?? There is only one Kreisler, and though I might have copied what he was doing, I certainly couldn’t say I unlocked some secret. I just had fun and had a laugh at the irony that I was practicing really hard to play with someone who never practiced.

Just in case you think I forgot that February 2nd is also Heifetz’s birthday,

Let’s hear a 10 year old Heifetz show us how it’s done

I would like to thank Veikko Viljanen for allowing me to use his wonderful recording.

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Replies

February 2, 2018 at 09:20 PM · very very interesting Darwin, many thanks!

February 3, 2018 at 03:20 PM · To Darwin Shen, again!

Having written quite a substantial Reply to your first article on Fritz Kreisler, the Pianist, it was heartening to see recognition of the Twin Birthday's of both Jascha Heifetz and Fritz Kreisler, born 26 years apart, on their Celebratory February 2, 2018 Day!

Quite an intriguing idea to play your violin along (so to speak) with the Fritz Kreisler Piano roll ~ I should think it was most inspiring!!

When you mentioned Mr. Kreisler & Rachmaninoff being great friends, which my 'other' violin mentor, Nathan Milstein, talked of to me several times when studying with him, privately, in his Chester Square in London home, the main focus was on the 'miracle' collaboration in the Schubert Duo between Kreisler and Rachmaninoff ~ For any violinist's or pianist's reading this, Go! Run! and buy this extraordinary recording which is sewn so seamlessly together by their uncannily blended ensemble it might make any musician wonder if only One artist had pre -recorded Schubert's Duo on both the violin and on the piano to then 'cut & paste' both parts together?!!

Noting your references to Fritz Kreisler's 'never practising', I do feel this a bit of exaggeration, dear Mr. Shen! To possess Fritz Kreisler's inner rhythmic vibration & control fused w/charmed Viennese organic 'Lilt', truly requires much way beforehand diligent practising! As he was lovingly nicknamed - 'Fritzi', by his many enchanted & doting colleagues, Heifetz, Milstein, Sergei Rachmaninoff, V. Horowitz, & etc., I've no doubt this intriguingly remarkable musician practised enormously very early on in his life with more 'dips' into the practise room than 'legend' has it & especially for his recordings. Most likely, FK greatly enjoyed the idea of the myth built up about his 'never practising'!! He was from shared accounts of Milstein, "cute" & sweetly cantankerous! (For me, this is an even more charming quality of Fritz Kreisler, which is inherent in his unique sound & 'way' of interpretation with all his often played compositions & within the musical margins of Kreisler's wondrous recording of Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in e minor) ~ It's utterly sublime vintage Fritz Kreisler, with no flaws ...

Thank you very much for your delightful Happy Birthday article to Fritz Kreisler & my famed violin mentor, Jascha Heifetz ~ two of the most startling artists of entire Twentieth Century Music, both of whom adored & greatly revered each other - as personally witnessed on the morning of my JH audition to be accepted into his first USC Violin Master Class on January 31, '62, meeting a red eyed Jascha Heifetz in the initial moments of human grief having learned his unique colleague & friend, Fritz Kreisler, had just passed away in New York City, and then playing Unaccompanied Bach before Jascha Heifetz in Los Angeles, the 'City of the Angels' ...

Surely, both 'Fritzi' & Heifetz are in God's House, 'carrying on' into Eternity ~

Sending you warmed thoughts from Chicago ~

Elisabeth Matesky

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