Erich Wolfgang Korngold

Born in Brunn (then part of Austria, now Brno, Czech Republic), the 29th of May 1897, son of music critic Julius Korngold, unveil soon his predisposition and musical hability, both as composer and performer. At five years old he has lessons of piano and musical theory, and two years later composed his first work. In June 1906 performs his cantata Gold in front of an amazed Gustav Mahler, whom recommended him as pupil to his friend, and also composer, Alexander von Zemlinsky. His first published score is the Trio op.1, which Universal Edition edits in 1910.

Prestigious conductor Felix von Weingartner premiered, in 1913, his spectacular Sinfonietta op.5, a score which shows his best symphonic and structural qualities; in fully popular and critical uprising, Korngold composed his first opera, Der Ring des Polykrates op.7 between 1913 and 1914; the premiere, in a double program with Violanta op.8, takes place the 28th of March 1916, under the baton of Bruno Walter. The success convince him to compose Die Tote Stadt op.12, whose triumphal first performances occurs simultaneously in Hamburg and Koeln, the 4th of December 1920.

The decade of the twenties saw Korngold firmly rooted, both as composer and person. In 1924 marries Luise von Sonnenthal (Luzi from then on), and began to create the composition of his more huge opera, Das Wunder der Heliane op.20, a work on which the composer puts the best of himself. The premiere in Hamburg, in October of 1927, and its consequent presentation in Vienna found a critical rejection before the advance of scores musically more audacious, like the splendid Jonny Spielt Auf from Ernst Krenek, premiered the same year. Korngold's following frustration takes him to a series of years a little bit out of bounds, on where he dedicates a big part of his energies to arrange and modernize operettas, among others, from Johann Strauss II.

In 1929 Korngold met theatre director Max Reinhardt, an encounter which will have a capital importance five years later when, at Reinhardt's request, he goes to Hollywood commissioned to make the musical arrangements of Felix Mendelssohn's music for A Midsummer Night's Dream, a new Warner Bros project. The return, in 1935, to a Europe in full prewar transformation only serve to slow him on the composition of his new opera, Die Kathrin. He accepted to return to Hollywood to compose the music for Give Us This Night, a forgotten film from Paramount. Once there he agrees to the Warner offer, and composed his first great film score, Captain Blood. In 1936 he obtained his first Academy Award thanks to his operatical score for Anthony Adverse, which couldn't avoid a new return to Europe to premiere his just finished opera. However, Austria's political and social situation is very troubled, and the announced first performance of Die Kathrin is cancelled.

Korngold returned without hope to Hollywood, and is there, when he is composing the score for The Adventures of Robin Hood (which will get him his second Academy Award), that his worst suspicions about his beloved Austria become true: the annexation with Germany, the Anschluss, is already a reality. From then on, except some lieder and a couple of choral works, Korngold will dedicate his musical efforts exclusively to the movies, a new direction confirmed after the failed premiere, at last, of Die Kathrin op.28 in Stockholm, the 7th of October 1939. When the World War II comes to its end, Korngold tried a new comeback to the world of "serious music", premiering his String Quartet #3 op.34 and the Violin Concerto op.35, two splendid works for which he used thematic material extracted from his film scores. In 1946, with Deception, from which he will extract his Cello Concerto op.37, he closed his Hollywood period.

Three years later Korngold returned, again, to Vienna, where his Symphonic Serenade op.39 was premiered by Wilhelm Furtwaengler; however, nobody seems interested on is music, and returned disappointed two years later to the United States, where he will dedicate his efforts to the composition of his last great symphonic score, the Symphony in F Sharp op.40. In 1954 travels, for the last time, to Europe for its premiere; after supervise and arrange Richard Wagner's music for Magic Fire, the biopic which his old friend William Dieterle is shooting, Korngold returns definitevely to the States. In 1957, very shortened in force and will but planning a new opera, suffered a cerebral trombosis dying the 29th of November, at the age of sixty.

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Year / Artwork Title Importance Medium
1910 Piano Trio Opus 1 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

Glenn Dictedrow
Alan Stepansky
Israela Margalit

1914-1915 Volante Opus 8 4.00 stars CD
Comments:

Synopsis:

15th century Venice.

The scene is the house of Simone Trovai, military commander of the Venetian Republic. It is night of the great Carnival and the lagoon is bathed in the light of torches and fireworks;revellers can be heard singing the blasphemous Carnival song "From their graves arise the dead to dance..." Matteo,a young soldier,hopelessly in love with Violanta,Simone's beautiful wife,is mocked by others soldiers and serving-maids. The singing and dancing gains the intensity and reaches fever-pitch as Simone storms in,dispersing the crowds and ordering the soldiers back to their posts. His rage is aggravated by the fact that no-one knows where Violanta is to be found. She has been listless.melancholy and in no sense a wife to Simone ever since her sister Nerina,had been seduced by Alfonso the prince of Naples,had committed suicide.
Since then Violanta has been on vengeance.

Giovanni Bracca,a foppishly-dressed artist enters in high spirits and tries to take Simone off to the Carnival. He is reluctant to go until he hears Alfonso is there. As they are about to leave Violanta appears,her hair in disarray and covered with confetti. She calmly orders Bracca to leave and then explains to her dumbfounded husband how she had gone to the Carnival in search for Alfonso and enticed him away from his admirers by singing the Carnival song. Without revealing her identity she had arranged an assignation at Simone's house where she intends to have her husband murder Alfonso. Simone is horrified at this plan,not least because Alfonso the Prince of Naples could one day become his commanding officer. But Violanta is maniacally resolved to avenge her dead sister as well as all the other pure women that Alfonso has seduced. She temps her husband with promises of resumption of marital privileges after the murder,and taunts him by hinting that her hatred could easily turn to love were the deed not done. Fired with jealousy and passion Simone concurs,and they agree on a plan. Simone will remain concealed until Alfonso is disarmed;Violanta will sing the Carnival Song so detested by Simone as a signal that he should enter and strike the fatal blow. Simone retires and Violanta is left alone,trembling with anticipation.

Barbara,Violanta's old nurse,enters;surprised at her mistress' agitation,she tries to soothe her by singing her an old familiar lullaby. When she departs,leaving Violanta alone is the candlelit room,the scud of oars over the lagoon gradually becomes audible. It is Alfonso drawing nearer. From his boat he sings a serenade to the accompaniment of a lute; when he enter her chamber,he continues to praise Violanta's great beauty,exhorting her to sing again the song that had brought them together, She insists that he should first take off his cloak and unbuckle his sword. This done,he begins to sing the song himself,but she stops him with an explanation that it will be the last song he will ever hear. At once she reveals her true identity and her intention to avenge Nerina. He interrupts her to explain the course of his life: his lonely childhood with neither mother or sisters,and the hopeless mixture of transitory joys and permanent despair which is his present existence. A longing for the death,he explains is therefore no stranger to him, and he asks her to give the sign and let the deed be done quickly. Violanta however is struck dumb;she finds herself that unable to utter a word. Alfonso suddenly realises that she indeed loves him. Burning with the shame,she orders him to leave. Again he bids her give the sign,again she refuses. She bemoans the living death that she must now endure,pure and yet impure,a wife and yet unfaithful,in love with her own sister's seducer. He implores her to forget the past and the future and to think only the present moment of ecstasy;they fall into each other's arms and sing of the sublimity of pure love.

Their bliss is interrupted by Simone who,growing impatient,calls out his wife. Violanta recognizes the end of a dream and,spurred on by Alfonso,sings the fateful song with hysterical abandon. Simone rushes in to find the lovers locked in an embrace. Alfonso declares that Violanta has not deceived her husband because she was never really his. In frenzy,Simone tried to stab him,but Violanta interposes herself and received a mortal wound.

Bracca rushes in to take Simone off to the Carnival where festivities are in a full swing. Revellers are heard singing the fateful Carnival Song,and Violanta,singing of the purity and sublimity she is to attain,dies in Simone's arms .

Eva Marton (Violanta)
Siegfried Jerusalem (Alfonso)
Walter Berry (Simone Trovai)
Muenchner Rundfunkorchester & Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks cond. Marek Janowski

1918-1919 Much Ado About Nothing Opus 11 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

Radio-Sinfonieorchester cond. Willy Mattes

1920 Die Tote Stadt 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

Mariettas Lied
Mein Sehen, mein Waehnen

Dama Kiri Te Kanawe Philharmonia Orchestra cond. Juliua Rudel
Thomas Hampson Muenschner Runsfunkorchester cond. Fabio Luisi

1920 Die Tote Stadt 4.50 stars 2 CD
Comments:
Synopsis:

Place: Bruges, Belgium
Time: End of 19th Century

Act 1

When the opera opens, Paul, a younger middle-class man whose young wife, Marie, has recently died, cannot come to terms with the sad reality of her death. He keeps a Temple of Memories in her honor, including paintings, photographs and a lock of her hair. When his friend Frank pays him a visit at his house and urges him to honor Marie by moving on with his life, Paul flies into a rant, and insists that Marie still lives. He tells Frank that he has met a woman on the streets of Bruges who exactly resembles Marie (indeed, Paul thinks that it is Marie) and invited her back to his home.

Soon, the woman, Marietta, a young and beautiful dancer, appears for her rendezvous with Paul. They talk, she is put off by his odd behavior, but persists in trying to interest him in her charms she sings and dances seductively, but eventually gets bored and leaves. Paul meanwhile is driven to a state of extreme anxiety.

Torn between his loyalty to Marie and his interest in Marietta he collapses into a chair and begins to hallucinate. He sees Marie’s ghost step out of her portrait and urge him not to forget her, but then the vision of Marie changes and tells Paul to go and move on with his life.

Act 2

After a series of visions in which his pursuit of Marietta alienates him from all his remaining friends, the act ends with Marietta finally overcoming his resistance and leading him offstage locked in a passionate embrace. All this takes place in Paul’s imagination.

Act 3

Paul's vision continues. Back in his house, living with Marietta, he quarrels with her. She gets fed up with his quirks and continuing obsession with Marie and starts to taunt him by dancing seductively while stroking his dead wife's hair. In a rage, Paul grabs the lock of hair and strangles Marietta. Holding her dead body he exclaims Now she is exactly like Marie. Then he snaps out of his dream. Astonished that Marietta's body is nowhere to be found, he has barely had time to collect his thoughts when his maid informs him that Marietta has come back to pick up her umbrella which she left in the house when she departed a few minutes ago. With the shock of the traumatic dream still fresh in his mind, Paul finally resolves to leave Bruges, let his dead wife rest in peace, and continue his life. In a touching conclusion, with his friend Frank at his side, he vows to start his life anew and slowly leaves behind his house and his Temple of Memories, for the last time.

Carol Neblett
Rene Kollo
Hermann Prey
Muenchener Rundfunkorchester cond. Erich Leinsdorf

1924 String Sextet No 1 Opus 10 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

The Flesch Quartet
+ Ian Humphries - Viola
David Buckball - Cello

1924 String Quartet No 1 Opus 16 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

The Flesch Quartet

1934 String Quartet No 2 Opus 26 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

The Flesch Quartet

1937-1939 Violin Concerto Opus 35 4.00 stars CD
Comments:

Chantal Julliet - Violin
Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin cond. John Mauceri

ENTARTE MUSIK

1945 String Quartet No 3 Opus 34 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

The Flesch Quartet

1945 Violin Concerto Opus 35 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

Ulf Hoelscher - Violin

South German Tadio Symphony Orchestra cond. Willy Mattes

1945 Violin Concerto Opus 35 4.00 stars DVD-R
Comments:

Nicola Benedetti - Violin

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra cond. Kirill Karabits

Recorded from BBC Proms 2015

1946 Cello Concerto 4.00 stars  CD
Korngold Comments:

Composed for the Irving Rapper movie Deception

Zuill Bailey - Cello
Konzertvereinigung Linzer Theaterchor
Bruckner Orchester Linz conducted by Caspar Richter

1947-1952 Symphony in F Opus 40 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

Dedicated to the memory of F.D. Roosevelt

Philadelphia Orchestra cond.Franz Welser-Moest

Compilation Fragments from Operas 4.00 stars  CD
Korngold Comments:

Waltz from der Schneemann (1908-1909)
Der Sturm, for chorus & orchestra (1913)
Der Ring Des Polykrates (1913)
Much Ado About Nothing: Festmusik; Trauermusik; Schlusstanz (1918-1919)
Das Wunder Der Heliane (1922-1927)
Die Kathrin (1933-1937)

Wendy Nielsen - Soprano
Konzertvereinigung Linzer Theaterchor
Bruckner Orchester Linz conducted by Caspar Richter

1939 Songs of the Clown Opus 29 4.00 stars CD
Korngold Comments:

Angelika Kirchschlager - Mezzo Soprano
Helmut Deutsch - Piano

1944 Between Two Worlds 4.00 stars CD
Comments:

Deutsches Symphonieorchester Berlin cond. John Mauceri

ENTARTETE MUSIK

Soundtrack of the Movie

1947 Fuenf Lieder Opus38 4.00 stars CD
Korngold Comments:

Angelika Kirchschlager - Mezzo Soprano
Helmut Deutsch - Piano

1947 Symphonic Serenade for string orchestra in B, Op. 39 4.00 stars CD
Comments:

Deutsches Symphonieorchester Berlin cond. John Mauceri

ENTARTETE MUSIK

1953 Thema and Variations Ops 42 4.00 stars 2 CD
Comments:

Radio-Sinfonieorchester cond. Willy Mattes

1953 Theme and Variations for school orchestra, Op. 42 4.00 stars CD
Comments:

Deutsches Symphonieorchester Berlin cond. John Mauceri

ENTARTETE MUSIK

Compilation Lieder 4.00 stars CD
Comments:

Sommer Op. 9 No. 6
Liebesbriefschen Op. 9 No. 4
Gefaßter Abschied Op. 14 No. 4)
Sterbelied Op. 14 No. 1
My Mistress' Eyes (Sonnet CXXX) Op. 38 No. 5
Unvergänglichkeit Op. 27 No. 1

Songs of the Clown op. 29
Come Away Death
O Mistress Mine
Adieu, Good Man Devil
Hey, Robin
For the Rain, It Raineth Every Day

Adele Johnston - Mezzo Soprano
Andrew Greene - Piano