If Kreisler’s status as one of the master violinists of the last century is beyond question, his creative talent is still largely undervalued because his forte was as an exquisite miniaturist. Kreisler’s ability to come up with a winning melody time and again bears comparison with the great American songwriters of his generation, while his handling of chromatic harmonies shows a sophistication that his colleagues from Tin Pan Alley often lacked.
It is fascinating to hear a violinist so different in temperament and sound from Kreisler himself in these delectable microcosms. Whereas the Master tended towards cantabile warmth and radiant opulence, Portuguese virtuoso Carlos Damas is closer to the modern sensibilities and sound world of Thomas Zehetmair and Gidon Kremer. Rather than offering lashings of golden sound in the Perlman mould, Damas, with lightning technical reflexes and tonal flexibility, takes nothing for granted as he traverses well-worn musical territory as if he was discovering its special qualities for the very first time. His tendency to avoid too much vibrato and set harmonic resonances ringing possesses a Szeryng-like finesse, yet there is an element of fantasy about his playing that imbues each piece with its own special sense of identity. Fine accompaniments from Anna Tomasik and excellent engineering round out one of the finest Kreisler recitals around.