Fritz Kreisler had a uniquely sweet and varied tone; and his phrasing and use of a highly personal, expressive intonation made him unmistakable. He was also a gifted composer of both memorable, melodic trifles and more substantial works, among which is a remarkable string quartet, included here. The booklet tells us that Kreisler was rather lazy, and did not like to practice: that is fairly apparent from the later of the two recordings of the Brahms concerto, which has ragged moments. In the 1920s Berlin recordings, made in his early 50s, he is technically more secure than in the London remakes of a decade later. But the sweetness of tone is still there, and he is still able to ravish the ear.
The three CDs devoted to his complete Beethoven violin sonatas with Franz Rupp at the piano have their moments of beauty: but they would not be a first choice for many today. His characteristic use of portamenti now seems excessive and barely acceptable in these works. They seem 'old-fashioned' in a way that Szigeti's roughly contemporary performances do not. Still, they are well worth hearing.
The salon pieces, many of his own composition; and movements from Bach's unaccompanied suites and partitas, with a sprinkling of Mozart and Schubert, which occupy the last two CDs are perhaps the most memorable. Among his contemporaries, and early successors, Heifetz, Szigeti and Milstein have left us more technically assured recordings of the great concertos: but we are still grateful for the warmth and humanity that Kreisler brings to these works.
The present remasterings are now 20 years old, and some of them sound fairly dim when compared to recent restorations of similar vintage recordings by Andrew Rose of Pristine. But at the bargain price of this Icon set, there is much in this cornucopia to warm the heart and make us grateful for a unique musician and fiddler.