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Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD
Complete works for violin and piano:
Violin Sonata Op. 6 in G
Tanzlied des Pierrot
(Die tote Stadt)
Marriettas Lied zur Laute (Die tote Stadt)
Caprice fantastique
(Der Schneemann)
Gesang der Heliane (Das Wunder der Heliane)
Much Ado About Nothing suite
Sonja van Beek (violin) and Andreas Frölich (piano)
cpo 999 709-2 [72:05] midprice
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Korngold composed his Violin Sonata in G, in 1912 when he was only fifteen. He was encouraged to write it by Carl Flesch and Artur Schnabel; and it was they who premiered it. The Violin Sonata is a virtuoso piece placing high and, in part, extreme demands on the violinist; and the piano part often has dense textures. It is classical-Romantic in idiom with emotion enough but without the 'heart-on-sleeve' effulgence we have come to associate with the operas and the film music. There are difficulties of co-ordination through Korngold's complex rhythmic and dynamic writing. Tonally, the sonata recalls compositions from Zemlinsky (Korngold's teacher) and the late-Romantic coloration of Schönberg. Added to this complexity, is the unusual if not extraordinary shape of the Scherzo which at nearly twelve minutes duration, here, is longer than any of the other three movements. This scherzo covers a wide range of emotions. Although it is undeniably Viennese in character, there is violence and heavy drama, ruminative material and quasi-military figures well as the dance material (particularly waltz measures) that one associates more with a scherzo. Andreas Frölich's attack consistently impresses but van Beek sometimes gives the impression that she is holding back - a more emotional involvement would not have gone amiss.

I have to say that I was disappointed in this same tentativeness in the two pieces from Die tote Stadt. These are dreamily romantic; but here the playing is too matter-of-fact, little commitment, little romance. Things improve when there is a chance to show off technique in the imaginatively quirky witches' music that is Caprice fantastique. The salon music that is the Serenade from Der Scheemann is nicely judged, so too is the 'verbal-melancholy' of the Song of Heliane.

But the most memorable music and most instantly appealing is the popular Much Ado About Nothing suite. Here it is a sparkling confection with the beautiful coy 'Mädchen im Brautgemach' (one of Korngold's loveliest melodies) contrasting with the amusingly clumsy gait of 'Halzapfel und Schlehenwein' (anticipating the Sherwood Forest music from The Adventures of Robin Hood). Next there is the blissfully romantic Gartenscene, and, in conclusion, the merriment of 'Mummenschanz'.

A valuable addition to the Korngold discography that would have benefited more from more expressive playing.

Ian Lace

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