Sinfonietta in B Major, Op.5
1. Flie?end, mit heiterem Schwunge
2. Scherzo: Molto agitato, rasch und feurig
3. Molto andante (tr?umerisch)
4. Finale: Patetico
Violin Concerto in D Major, Op.35
5. Moderato Nobile
6. Romance: Andante
7. Finale: Allegro assai vivace
Ulrike-Anima Mathe Violin
Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Andrew Litton Conductor
Korngold, Erich Wolfgang
(b Brno, 29 May 1897; d Hollywood, CA, 29 Nov 1957). Austrian composer active in the USA. The second son of the eminent music critic Julius Korngold (1860–1945), he was a remarkable child prodigy composer. In 1906 he played his cantata Gold to Gustav Mahler, who pronounced him a genius and recommended that he be sent to Zemlinsky for tuition. At the age of 11 he composed the ballet Der Schneemann, a sensation when it was first performed at the Vienna Court Opera (1910); he followed this with a Piano Trio and a remarkable Piano Sonata in E that so impressed Artur Schnabel that he championed the work all over Europe. Richard Strauss remarked: ‘One’s first reaction that these compositions are by a child are those of awe and concern that so precocious a genius should follow its normal development …. This assurance of style, this mastery of form, this characteristic expressiveness, this bold harmony, are truly astonishing!’. Giacomo Puccini, Jean Sibelius, Bruno Walter, Arthur Nikisch, Engelbert Humperdinck, Karl Goldmark and many others were similarly impressed.
Korngold was 14 when he wrote his first orchestral work, the Schauspiel Ouvert?re; his Sinfonietta appeared the following year. His first operas, Der Ring des Polykrates and Violanta, were completed in 1914. With the appearance of the opera Die tote Stadt, completed when he was 23 and acclaimed internationally after its dual premi?re in Hamburg and Cologne (1920), his early fame reached its height. After completing the first Left Hand Piano Concerto, commissioned by Wittgenstein in 1923, he began his fourth and arguably greatest opera, Das Wunder der Heliane (1927), and started arranging and conducting classic operettas by Johann Strauss and others. He also began teaching opera and composition at the Vienna Staatsakademie and was awarded the title professor honoris causa by the president of Austria.
Max Reinhardt, with whom Korngold had collaborated on versions of Die Fledermaus and La belle H?l?ne, invited him to Hollywood in 1934 to work on his celebrated film of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Over the next four years, Korngold pioneered a new art form, the symphonic film score, in such classics as Captain Blood, The Prince and the Pauper and Anthony Adverse (for which he won the first of two Academy Awards). The Anschluss prevented him from staging his fifth opera, Die Kathrin, and he remained in Hollywood composing some of the finest music written for the cinema. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938, winner of his second Academy Award), The Sea Hawk (1940) and Kings Row (1941) are his greatest works in the genre. Treating each film as an ‘opera without singing’ (each character has his or her own leitmotif) he created intensely romantic, richly melodic and contrapuntally intricate scores, the best of which are a cinematic paradigm for the tone poems of Richard Strauss and Franz Liszt. He intended that, when divorced from the moving image, these scores could stand alone in the concert hall. His style exerted a profound influence on modern film music.
After the war Korngold returned to absolute music, composing, among other works, a Violin Concerto (1937, rev. 1945) first performed by Heifetz, a Cello Concerto (1946), a Symphonic Serenade for string orchestra (1947) given its premi?re by Furtw?ngler, and the Symphony in F (1947–52). His late Romantic style, however, was completely out of step with the postwar era and when he died at the age of 60, he believed himself forgotten. After decades of neglect, a gradual reawakening of interest in his music occurred. At the time of his centenary (1997) his works were becoming increasingly popular, appearing on major recordings and concert programmes around the world.
The son of the music critic Julius Korngold (1860–1945), he was a remarkable child prodigy. When he was ten his cantata for voices and piano, Gold, brought him to the attention of Mahler, who recommended him to Zemlinsky as a pupil. At 11 he completed the ballet Der Schneemann (‘The Snowman’), which caused a sensation at its premiere at the Vienna Court Opera in 1910; his Second Piano Sonata, composed the same year, was enthusiastically championed by Schnabel. A pair of one-act operas, Der Ring des Polykrates and Violanta, had their premieres in 1916. Characterized by a sensuous, post-Romantic chromaticism, they reveal an astonishing emotional maturity in one so young, though their obvious debts to Strauss and Puccini (both of whom admired Korngold intensely) cannot be overlooked. Die tote Stadt (‘The Dead City’), a Symbolist study of morbid sexual obsession, widely regarded as the finest of Korngold's operas, received a dual premiere in Hamburg and Cologne in 1920. Die Wunder der Heliane (‘The Miracle of Heliane’) was no less successful at its first performance in 1927. In 1928, a poll taken from among the readers of the Wiener Tageblatt revealed that Korngold was considered one of the two greatest contemporary Austrian composers, Schoenberg being the other. In 1927 he was appointed professor at the Vienna State Academy.
In 1934 Korngold was invited to the USA by Max Reinhardt to adapt Mendelssohn's incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream as a film score. In 1935 he elected to remain in Hollywood, a decision partly provoked by the worsening political situation in Europe. Korngold was Jewish, and his works were therefore deemed Entartete Musik by the Nazis and were subsequently suppressed in the German-speaking world. His last opera Die Katrin, written for the Vienna State Opera, was withdrawn after the Anschluss in 1938 and received its premiere in Stockholm the following year. During World War II Korngold concentrated on film music, producing some 19 scores, though he returned to absolute music in later life with his Violin Concerto (1946) and the Symphony in F (1951–2). His reputation suffered in the years after his death largely because of his association with the American film industry. A revival of Die tote Stadt in New York in 1975, followed by growing interest in the exploration of Entartete Musik, led to a major reappraisal of his work. He is now regarded by many as one of the finest post-Romantic composers.
KdG (S. Rode-Breymann)
E. Newman: ‘The Problem of Erich Korngold’, The Nation (24 Aug 1912)
R.S. Hoffmann: Erich Wolfgang Korngold (Vienna, 1922)
E.W. Korngold: ‘Some Experiences in Film Music’, Music and Dance in California, ed. J. Rodr?guez (Hollywood, 1940), 137–9
R. Behlmer: ‘Erich Wolfgang Korngold – Established Some of the Film Music Basics Film Composers Now Ignore’, Films in Review, no.182 (1967), 86–100
L. Korngold: Erich Wolfgang Korngold (Vienna, 1967)
J. Korngold: Die Korngolds in Wien (Z?rich, 1991)
S. Blickensdorfer: Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Opern und Filmmusik (diss., U. of Vienna, 1993)
R. van der Lek, trans. M. Swithinbank: ‘Concert Music as Reused Film Music’, AcM, lxvi (1994), 8–112
B.G. Carroll: The Last Prodigy (Portland, OR, 1997)