During the late nineteenth century, and certainly from the time of the Paris Exposition of 1889, mock-Orientalism in home decoration and fashion was all the rage throughout France, and many artisans across diverse fields dabbled at grafting a certain amount of Asian veneer onto their work in an effort to boost sales of whatever their product might be. While the average European consumer of the late nineteenth century may have known essentially nothing of the Far East's true nature, very rarely did such chinoiserie-producing craftsmen ever really imagine their work to be anything but a superficial pastiche of cultural elements. Certainly the composers writing music with Eastern inflections at the time -- one thinks immediately of Debussy or, a little later on, Ravel in L'Enfant et les sortilèges and American Charles Griffes with Shojo -- knew well how fully Western their pieces really were. Employing an exotic sounding scale and inserting a few melodic clichés within the context of an otherwise wholly typical European salon truffle was really enough to satisfy their audiences' craving for the Orient, and usually these composers went no further. Such is the case with Fritz Kreisler's very charming Tambourin Chinois, Op. 3 for violin and piano, composed sometime during, or perhaps just before, the first decade of the twentieth century, right about the time that Kreisler was making his first big splash as an international violinist.
Each measure of the three-sectioned Tambourin Chinois is every bit a violinist's delight, offering ample opportunity to indulge in both technical frippery and sentiment. The hammered open fifths of the brief piano introduction immediately set up the non-European facade against which the violin bursts out with a flurry of pentatonic scale joviality. A miniature climax is soon built, complete with a rapid, articulated descending glissando, seeming to lead to a new and independent melodic thought, built around repeated perfect fourths in the violin; this, however, as we shortly learn, is just a ruse, and without further ado, Kreisler wraps up the opening section by returning to the very thought with which it began. There is really nothing of Asia about the gorgeous middle section, which features a healthy dose of dotted rhythm by which Kreisler might show off his now-famous "detached" style of bowing. The few "exotic" augmented seconds that pop up as the section unfolds are powerless to dissolve the warm Viennese air of the music, and it is only by reprising the first section of music that Kreisler eventually re-achieves the successful encapsulation of one culture within another that makes Tambourin Chinois such a pleasure to hear.
Please take note that the audio AND sheet music ARE NOT mine. Change the quality to a minimum of 480p if the video is blurry.
Original audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7I9Lsbyy2E
Original sheet music: imslp.org