Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Mozart wasn’t the only child prodigy bearing the name Wolfgang to perform before an emperor. Erich Wolfgang Korngold was just 11 when he composed his ballet Der Schneemann (The Snowman), which was later performed at the Vienna Court Opera in 1910 before Emperor Franz Joseph I. Born in Brno (then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire), by the time he was 17, Korngold had composed his Sinfonietta and his first two operas. Mahler called him a "musical genius" and he was also highly praised by Puccini and Richard Strauss.

The actor and director Max Reinhardt persuaded Korngold to head to Hollywood to adapt Mendelssohn’s music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream for a film version. In the years that followed, Korngold effectively defined the Hollywood film score, composing music for Errol Flynn swashbucklers such as The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Sea Hawk. After the end of World War II, he returned to composing for the concert hall. His romantically lush Violin Concerto, perhaps his most famous composition, was written in 1945 and dedicated to Alma Mahler. It was given its first performance in 1947, with Jascha Heifetz the soloist.

Enjoy our Korngold playlist, including the familiar and some lesser-known works.

The Violin Concerto is such a wonderful work that it seems unfair to allow a single violinist to hog the limelight, so here its three movements are performed by different soloists.

Moderato nobile: Jascha Heifetz; Los Angeles Philharmonic/ Alfred Wallenstein:

Romanze: Hilary Hahn; Deutsche Symphonie Orchestra/ Kent Nagano:

Allegro assai vivace: Leonidas Kavakos; Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/ Hugo Wolff:

 

Korngold's most famous film score, The Adventures of Robin Hood, performed by the John Wilson Orchestra at the Proms:

 

Korngold's Symphony in F sharp major was completed in 1952 and draws on music from another film score, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

 

Among Korngold's chamber music, the Piano Quintet and the String Sextet are particularly glorious. 

Quintet for two violins, viola, cello and piano in E major, Op.15 - which has a Viennese lilt to the opening:

The String Sextet sounds like a descendent of those by Johannes Brahms - 1st movement Moderato - Allegro:

Korngold's most performed opera is Die tote Stadt (The Dead City) and its two most famous aria's are Marietta's Lied "Glück, das mir verblieb":

and Pierrot's Tanzlied, sung by the character Fritz: 

Finally, here's Korngold himself, playing his own transcription of the Pierrot Tanzlied, recorded in 1951:

Want to find some Korngold performed somewhere near you? Check out our Bachtrack listings