Friedrich 'Fritz' Kreisler was an Austrian-born violin virtuoso and composer. One of the most famous violin masters of his or any other day, he was known for his sweet tone and expressive phrasing. Like many great violinists of his generation, he produced a characteristic sound which was immediately recognizable as his own. Although he derived in many respects from the Franco-Belgian school, his style is nonetheless reminiscent of the gemütlich lifestyle of pre-war Vienna.
Kreisler was born in Vienna to a Jewish father and a German Protestant mother; he was baptised at age twelve. He studied at the Vienna Conservatory and in Paris, where his teachers included Anton Bruckner, Léo Delibes, Jakob Dont, Joseph Hellmesberger, Jr., Joseph Massart, and Jules Massenet. He made his United States debut at Steinway Hall in New York City on November 10, 1888, and his first tour of the United States in 1888-89 with Moriz Rosenthal, then returned to Austria and applied for a position in the Vienna Philharmonic. He was turned down by the concertmaster Arnold Rosé. Hearing a recording of the Rosé Quartet, it is easy to hear why - Rosé was sparing in his use of vibrato, and Kreisler would not have blended successfully with the orchestra's violin section. As a result, he left music to study medicine. He spent a brief time in the army before returning to the violin in 1899, giving a concert with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Arthur Nikisch. It was this concert and a series of American tours from 1901 to 1903 that brought him real acclaim.
In 1910, Kreisler gave the premiere of Sir Edward Elgar's Violin Concerto, a work commissioned by and dedicated to him. He briefly served in the Austrian Army in World War I before being honourably discharged after he was wounded. He spent the remaining years of the war in America. He returned to Europe in 1924, living first in Berlin, then moving to France in 1938. Shortly thereafter, at the outbreak of World War II, he settled once again in the United States, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1943. He lived in that country for the rest of his life. He gave his last public concert in 1947 and broadcast performances for a few years after that.
On April 26, 1941, he was involved in the first of two traffic accidents that marked his life. Struck by a truck while crossing a street in New York, he fractured his skull, and was in a coma for over a week. Towards the end of his life, he was in another accident while traveling in an automobile, and spent his last days blind and deaf from that accident, but he "radiated a gentleness and refinement not unlike his music," according to Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen who visited him frequently during that time. He died in New York City in 1962 and was interred in a private mausoleum in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, NY.