Austrian violinist. One of the most popular performers of his day, he frequently included his own short solo compositions in his recitals.
Born in Vienna, the son of an eminent physician, Kreisler had prodigious talent, which was encouraged by his music-loving father, and he entered the Vienna Conservatory at the age of seven. One of the youngest students ever to be admitted, he studied with Leopold Auer (1845–1930) and won the gold medal for violin playing at ten. At twelve, having moved to the Paris Conservatoire, where he studied with Joseph Massart (1811–92), he again won the gold medal against fierce competition. Kreisler's first public appearances were in America, where he toured with the pianist Moriz Rosenthal (1862–1946) in 1889. Feeling the need to develop other interests, Kreisler studied first medicine and then art in Rome and Paris. Finally he spent a year as an officer in the Austrian army. After these diversions he returned to music and made his mature debut in Berlin in 1899. In 1901 he played in London under Hans Richter (1843–1916) and won the affection of English audiences, particularly with his interpretations of the Beethoven and Brahms concertos. In 1904 he was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society and in 1910 he gave the first performance of Elgar's violin concerto (dedicated to him), afterwards playing it in St Petersburg, Moscow, Vienna, Berlin, Dresden, Munich, and Amsterdam. During World War I he served with the Austrian army, was wounded, and eventually went to America, where he settled.
Kreisler's playing combined a distinctive sweetness of tone with great vigour. Many of his own compositions were believed at the time to be arrangements of eighteenth-century trifles; only in later years were they disclosed as his own work.