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burdt on 06/22/2011 at 09:00AM

Bohumir Kryl, Cornet Virtuoso

Kryl in the LA Times

Bohumir Kryl (1875-1961) was one of the first virtuoso performers to be immortalized by audio recording technology.

He arrived in the United States at the age of 14, having spent 3 years as a circus performer in Bohemia after running away from home.

Kryl picked up the cornet after an injury during his time in the circus, becoming proficient enough to perform in street parades only after a few weeks.

In 1894 he approached Albert Bode, cornetist for the renowned Sousa's Band, for cornet lessons during one of their Indianapolis appearances. After hearing Kryl play Bode said:

That boy wants to take lessons from me, but hell, I can't teach him anything, he's better than I am.

Bohumir played for Sousa's Band until 1898, after which he performed in various outfits finally establishing his own band in 1906.

His dazzling performances and flamboyant looks wowed and thrilled crowds, as this radiant review from the Los Angeles Examiner shows:

About Kryl there is no question – even without his wonderful mass of tangled flaxen hair he would be a musical wonder. He is both and artist and magician. Caruso of the golden voice might almost envy Kryl his artificial golden throat, for Kryl sings through his cornet with a rich, clean-cut tone that carries no suggestion of metal with it – May 16, 1905.

He continued to perform well into his 60s to welcoming crowds and sold out venues, having also made dozens of solo recordings for Columbia, Edison Victor, and Zonophone.

The three selections for this week showcase his genius during the cylinder era.

"Carnival of Venice" is Kryl's signature performance, showcasing his absolute mastery of the cornet with elaborately fast passages and a difference tone so low his cornet seems to morph into a trombone or tuba even.

"Ben Bolt" is a somber meditation that shows off his subtle touch and effortlessly melodious tone, reminding us that virtuosity isn't always about being the fastest or flashiest performer.
"Du, Du", on the other hand, is a whimsical look into his upper register technique with trills so fast and flamboyant at times it appears that two cornetists are playing in absolute lockstep. Nevertheless, his speed and accuracy never prevent his personality from beaming through.

cpdp, zak, virtuoso, cylinders, cornet


01 on 10/10/11 at 08:04PM
Bohumir Kryl was my wife's grandfather, and when I met him in Chicago he played some of these recordings for me. I said, "That's probably the best cornet playing I have ever heard," and he said, "What do you mean probably?" This was 1960, the year Grace and I were married, and the year before he died. Quite an amazing fellow.
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