December 1, 1917
Page 1

Austrian Violinist Requests Release from Contracts—Decision Means Sacrifice of $85,000—Will Fulfill Concerts Promised for Charity—Issues Explanatory Statement in Which He Affirms His Deep Gratitude to America—Kreisler as Man, Musician and Soldier

AROUSED by attacks growing out of his Austrian connections, Fritz Kreisler, the Austrian violinist, announced last Sunday his decision to forego his concert work for the period of the war and asked for a general release from future contracts and obligations he had made to play in America. Kreisler had fifty-five American concert engagements, the cancellation of which will entail a loss of $85,000. He will fulfill all of his contracts from which releases cannot be obtained and will also fill every engagement for which he has pledged his services free for charity.
It will be remembered that the recent protests against Kreisler’s appearance before American audiences resulted in the canceling of engagements by managers in Pittsburgh, Newcastle and Morgantown, Pa., and Youngstown, Ohio. The famous violinist had frankly told his personal friends here that under present conditions an artist belonging to a nation allied with this country’s enemy in the war could not fairly and with self-respect continue to accept America’s money. His statement told his decision as follows:
Kreisler’s Statement
“Bitter attacks have been made upon me as an Austrian and because at the outbreak of the war I fought as an officer in the Austrian army at the Russian front. I have also been criticized for fulfilling engagements under contracts made long ago. I, therefore, am asking all concerned to release me from my obligations under existing contracts. My promise will be kept to play, without compensation, for those charities to which I have already pledged my support. I shall always remain deeply sensible of my debt of gratitude to this country for past kindnesses and appreciation of my art.”
Three times last week Kreisler played in New York, the last of these to a wildly enthusiastic gathering Saturday afternoon at Carnegie Hall, just three years to a day since he had returned to America after being wounded in the thigh by a Cossack spear. The same change of sentiment that ended German opera at the Metropolitan this fall affected the concert artists also. Mr. Kreisler found a woman’s club had cancelled his concert at Sewickley, Pa., on Nov. 3.
Since then, at Pittsburgh and Williamsport, Pa., as well as at Youngstown, Ohio, and Morgantown, W. Va., other concerts by him have been barred, officially so in one instance, at Pittsburgh, by Charles S. Hubbard, the Director of Public Safety. He filled engagements at Baltimore and at Washington, where he was heard by many of the Diplomatic Corps, and also at Hartford, where the Mayor in person ordered the concert to go on. Last week at Fall River he received as part of his fee ten $100 Liberty bonds.
“To Live Quietly and Compose”
Kreisler was disinclined to talk about his decision to end his tour. At the Hotel Wellington he told a New York Times reporter:
“I propose to live quietly and devote myself to composing some serious works that I have long had in mind.”
Kreisler married in this country some ten years ago and his wife is an American.
The book of Kreisler’s war experiences had a wide sale on its publication here three years ago. On the day before he was discharged as an invalid from his country’s army, Lieutenant Kreisler was advanced in rank one grade and was told by his regimental commander that he was to be “mentioned for distinguished service.”
In an interview with a representative of MUSICAL AMERICA published Dec. 5, 1914, upon his arrival here from the front of battle, Fritz Kreisler sent a noble message to his fellow artists. His words, in part, were as follows:
Message to Fellow Artists
“To bridge over the abysses of hatred and racial animosity that this war will leave behind it; to make the peace that will come and that otherwise might be a shallow pretense, a real and a deep and lasting peace—that must be the mission of the artist, and particularly the musical artist, when this war is ended. . . . It is to the .artist that we must look, first of all, I think, as the true diplomat, the true missionary of peace, and in that service that will come to·us it is my great hope to do my part. I cannot feel any real, any personal hatreds as a result of this war. The situation of the artist whose career has been made in many lands is peculiar in this instance. In my own case—my devotion to my own land, I think that is known. It is the one great thing with me; it is so with every Austrian. Yet I have so many friends in France, in Belgium, in England, in Russia! How could I change in my feelings toward them! How could any personal enmity enter in!!’
Refutes Charges
In a statement to the American people, issued recently, Fritz Kreisler said in part:
“There have been continuous statements in Pittsburgh papers designed to prejudice and arouse public opinion against me. It has been said that I am an Austrian officer on furlough and that my funds were sent abroad to give comfort to enemy arms. In this morning’s papers these statements are intensified by positive and violent accusations to that effect.
“These statements are utterly baseless and untrue.
“I am not on furlough here. At the outbreak of the war in July 1914, I served for six weeks as a reserve officer of the Austrian army on the Russian front and after receiving a wound was pronounced an invalid and honorably discharged from any further service. There has been no attempt whatever by my government to recall me into service.
“It is true that I sent money to Austria.
“I have sent a small monthly allowance to my father, a medical doctor and professor of zoology, who had lost everything during the Russian invasion of Austrian territory in October 1914, and has been prevented by a subsequent paralytic stroke from exercising his profession. He is seventy-four years old.
“l have sent monthly allowances to the orphan children of some artists, personal friends of mine who fell in the war.
“In fulfillment of a pledge undertaken by my wife, at the deathbed of some Russian and Serbian wounded prisoners whom she nursed during my stay at the front, I have sent eleven individual monthly allowances to their destitute orphans in Russia and Serbia through the medium of the Red Cross in Herne, Switzerland.
“The bulk of my earnings, however, has gone to the Brotherhood of Artists, founded by me for the purpose of extending help to stranded artists and their dependents regardless of their nationality. For fully three years my contributions were the sole and unique support of seventeen British, Russian, French and Italian artists and their entire families who found themselves stranded and utterly destitute in Austria at the outbreak or the war.
“I have been bitterly and violently attacked by Chauvinists in Vienna for diverting my earnings to that channel. On the other hand, I am in honor bound to state that I have never been rebuked for my actions by any official of my government.
“I have not sent a penny to Austria since the entrance of the United States in the war, and I have not had a word from abroad for fully eight months.
“The· ironical aspect of the situation is that some three-score of British, French, Russian and Italian children may now be· actually dying of want because I, technically their enemy, am prevented by the laws of this country, their friend and ally, from· saving them.
“During every minute of my three years’ stay in this country I have been conscious of my duty to it in return for its hospitality. I have obeyed its laws in letter and in spirit, and I have not done anything that might be construed in the least as being detrimental to it. Not a penny of my earnings has ever, nor will it ever, contribute to the purchase of rifles and ammunition, no matter where and in whatsoever cause. The violent political issues over the world have not for an instant beclouded my fervent belief in true art as the dead center of all passions and strife, as the sublime God-inspired leveler of things, as the ultimate re-pacifier, re-humanizer and rebuilder of destroyed bridges of understanding between nations.”
Kreisler’s appearances for charitable purposes include a concert to be given in New York and one concert in Boston and four in this city for the Bohemian War Relief Fund. He probably will live in New York until the end of the war.


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