Fritz Kreisler at the Krebs

Fritz Kreisler *

In July of 1918, Fritz Kreisler dined at the Krebs. An Austrian-born violinist and composer, he was one of the most famous violin masters of his or any other day, and regarded as one of the greatest violinists of all time, with a sweet, expressive tone that was his alone.

Just four years earlier, Kreisler had been caught up in World War I, on the Eastern Front, as an officer in the Austrian army. His time there was brief, and he described its conclusion in Four Weeks in the Trenches: The War Story of a Violinist (1915):

“The Russians by this time evidently had realized our comparatively defenseless condition and utter lack of ammunition, for that same night we heard two shots ring out, being a signal from our sentinels that they were surprised and that danger was near. I hardly had time to draw my sword, to grasp my revolver with my left hand and issue a command to my men to hold their bayonets in readiness, when we heard a tramping of horses and saw dark figures swooping down upon us. For once the Cossacks actually carried out their attack, undoubtedly owing to their intimate knowledge of our lack of ammunition. My next sensation was a crushing pain in my shoulder, struck by the hoof of a horse, and a sharp knife pain in my right thigh. I fired with my revolver at the hazy figure above me, saw it topple over and then lost consciousness.

“Upon coming to my senses I found my faithful orderly, kneeling in the trench by my side. He fairly shouted with delight as I opened my eyes. According to his story the Austrians, falling back under the cavalry charge, had evacuated the trench without noticing, in the darkness, that I was missing. But soon discovering my absence he started back to the trench in search of me… He revived me, gave me first aid, and succeeded with great difficulty in helping me out of the trench. For more than three hours we stumbled on in the night, trying to find our lines again. Twice we encountered a small troop of Cossacks, but upon hearing the tramping we quietly lay down on the wayside without a motion until they had passed. Happily we were not noticed by them, and from then we stumbled on without any further incident until we were hailed by an Austrian outpost and in safety.”

I trust that Kreisler’s dinner at the Krebs was far more restful.

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