Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2008 by Fred Flaxman

Program 138
"Classic Korngold"

Korngold: opening of Much Ado About Nothing / Viel Lärm um Nichts, Op. 11 performed by the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie Orchestra conducted by Werner Andreas Albert [cpo 99 150-2, CD 2, track 1] [under the following]

Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who lived from 1897 until 1957, was a child prodigy, a serious composer who moved to the United States after the Nazis took over Austria and became a highly successful creator of film scores in Hollywood. He was very disappointed not to be equally recognized and well-known during his lifetime as a serious composer of classical music. Stay with me for the next hour and I think you’ll agree that he deserved that recognition.

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Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and I’m calling the next hour “Classic Korngold.” We’ll listen to his incidental music to Much Ado About Nothing and his absolutely gorgeous Violin Concerto later, when I’ll also fill you in on his biography. But we’ll begin where he began, with the first movement of his Trio in D Major, Opus 1. This is from a 1997 concert recording by the Huntington Piano Trio on an A.W. compact disc.

MUSIC: Korngold: Trio in D Major, Op. 1, First Movement, the Huntington Piano Trio [AW1123, track 5] [10:00]
Erich Korngold’s Trio in D Major, Op. 1. You heard the Huntington Piano Trio, consisting of Miles Goldberg, piano; Blanka Bednarz, violin; and Cheung Chau, cello.

You are listening to “Classic Korngold” on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold is best known as a film score composer of Hollywood movies of the 1930s and 40s. He wrote the background music for Captain Blood in 1935 and Anthony Adverse, which received an Oscar for best film music of 1936. He received a second Oscar for the Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938, and provided the original scores for many other well-known films after that, including The Prince and the Pauper in 1937; Juarez in 1939; The Sea Hawk, 1940; King’s Row, 1941; and Deception, 1946.

But before arriving in Hollywood Korngold was a famous composer of concert and chamber works, operas and stage music, and an arranger and conductor. As a child prodigy he was even compared to Mozart, and he was called one of the most gifted young composers in the history of music.

Korngold wrote the music for a long-forgotten Errol Flynn movie called Another Dawn. Korngold’s father, a professional music critic, was so impressed with the main theme that he suggested to his son that he use it as the basis of a violin concerto.

Korngold sketched out the whole work and then invited a family friend, who was a violinist, to try it out. His performance was so bad, Korngold lost all confidence in his concerto and put the sketches away.

In 1945, encouraged by his wife to return to composing concert music, Korngold completely revised his concerto, and the legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz gave its world premiere in St. Louis in 1947. The concerto’s three movements all use themes from Korngold’s early film scores.

Here it is performed by violinist Ulrike-Anima Mathé with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton on a Dorian compact disc.

MUSIC: Korngold: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35 performed by violinist Ulrike-Anima Mathé with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton [Dorian DOR-90216, tracks 5, 6, 7] [23:52]

Ulrike-Anima Mathé was the violinist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Litton in the Violin Concerto by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

You are listening to “Classic Korngold” on Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one minute break not included in total timing]

I’m going to conclude this hour of “Classic Korngold” with his incidental music to Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Opus 11, completed in 1920. In this recording, which was supplied to Compact Discoveries by, Werner Andreas Albert conducts the Northwest German Philharmonic on a CPO compact disc.

MUSIC: Korngold: Much Ado About Nothing , performed by the Northwest German Philharmonic conducted by Werner Andreas Albert [CPO 999 150 - 2, CD 2, track 1] [17:00]

Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s incidental music to Much Ado About Nothing. The Northwest German Philharmonic was conducted by Werner Andreas Albert.

Following World War II, in 1946, Korngold decided to say goodbye to Hollywood and return to the concert stage. He had a contract with Warner Brothers Studios which required that concert music that he wrote include themes from his many movie scores for them, and he did this in his Violin Concerto, Op. 35; his Cello Concerto, Op. 37, and his Symphonic Serenade, Op. 39.

In 1947 he and his wife decided to return to Europe, but he suffered a heart attack which delayed their plans until 1949, when Erich Korngold finally set foot in Austria again for the first time since before the war.

A year later the famous German conductor Wilhelm Furtwaengler conducted the Vienna Philharmonic in a successful premiere of the Symphonic Serenade. But other performances of his works were poorly attended and received bad reviews. The worst of these was written years later in another context by an American critic, Paul Kresh, who said that Korngold’s music was “more Korn than gold.”

Korngold found himself forgotten and unappreciated in his former homeland, perhaps because the musical tastes of the Austrian classical music public had changed during his years away. He returned to the U.S. disappointed and dejected.

A second trip to Europe in 1954 for the premiere of his Symphony in F-sharp, Op. 40, was also unsuccessful. He then went to Munich to work on one last film, “Magic Fire,” a biography of Richard Wagner.

The next year he had a stroke which left him partially paralyzed. Two years later he died in Hollywood at the age of 60, believing himself to be virtually forgotten.

MUSIC: Korngold: excerpt from his Violin Concerto under the following:

That brings this hour of “Classic Korngold” on Compact Discoveries to a close. I hope you agree with me that Erich Wolfgang Korngold should no longer be forgotten. This is Fred Flaxman thanking you for listening. Thanks, also, to for supplying the recording of Much Ado About Nothing, and to Walter Meyer for assistance with German pronunciations and the Paul Kresh quote.

This Compact Discoveries program is a presentation of WPVM, Asheville, North Carolina, a broadcast service of the Mountain Area Information Network.

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Program Ends at 59:00

  ©2008 Compact Discoveries