‘Music is part of our existence, even under shell-fire’: String players of the Great War

Albert Sammons

In our August 2014 issue, Tully Potter tells the extraordinary tales of some of the myriad string players caught up in the action of the 1914-18 war

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Fritz Kreisler was at the height of his fame when war broke out in 1914. He and his wife Harriet were taking a cure at a Swiss spa when on 31 July they read in a newspaper that his old regiment had been mobilised. Although he had resigned his reserve commission two years previously, Kreisler set off at once for Vienna to report for duty and discovered he was being called up anyway. Sent to the Eastern Front at Lemberg [Lviv, in western Ukraine], he found himself fighting the Cossacks. On 6 September he was knocked over by a charging horse and wounded in the leg by a lance, but shot his main adversary before passing out. He was not found by his orderly for hours and in the confusion a report of his death was flashed round the world. Harriet did not know he was alive until 10 September. Discharged after recuperation and promoted to captain, he was free to resume his career and set off with Harriet for America, arriving on 24 November walking with a stick and still injured in the right shoulder. He started giving concerts, playing through the pain, and in April 1915 his memoir Four Weeks in the Trenches was published, making him a hero. 

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