Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Violin Sonata in G major op. 6 (1913) [38:24]
Violin Concerto in D major op. 35 (1945) [25:00]
Bengt Forsberg (piano)
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/David Björkman
rec. Swedish Broadcasting Corporation, Studio 2, 12 November
2007 (sonata); Berwaldhallen, Stockholm, 24 May 2006 (concerto).
DDD DAPHNE 1032 [63:52]
Korngold was a phenomenon
but phenomena are transient unless their work has an enduring
quality. Korngold had that quality even if it has taken a
fashion upheaval to make his concert music acceptable and
and orchestral music spanned the whole of his career while
his five operas concluded with Die Tote Stadt in 1920.
Film scores - perhaps an opera-substitute and certainly the
source of a handsome if exhausting living – in some sense
took the place of opera from 1934 until his death.
Sonata was written during the composer's fifteenth
and sixteenth years. Listening to the music these bald
facts seem scarcely plausible. The Sonata’s ideas have
the stamp and reach of maturity. Wonder is one thing; the
music is what matters. This big four movement sonata was
written for Schnabel and Carl Flesch. Its language is that
of Franz Schmidt and Joseph Marx - lushly romantic, rhapsodically
aureate yet taut. It is just as remarkable, and its psychological
realm as richly stocked, as that of the Sinfonietta he
wrote early on after his studies with Zemlinsky. There
have been few recordings of this Sonata – perhaps only
Sonia van Beek on CPO.
In fact I could not instantly think of any. Forsberg has
already recorded Korngold with von Otter but
Stockholm-born Waltman is a new name to me. He lays into
this work with a will yet has poetry aplenty for the wonderfully
touching Scherzo which moves with a strange fluidity
between nightmare and delight. Waltman's tone is a shade
nasal and hoarse with emotion – not that this is untoward.
He tracks adeptly the palette of moods through which Korngold
traverses like quicksilver. The following Adagio (III)
has the closest touch with the world of the much later
Violin Concerto. Several of the figures and one specific
episode overlap directly with the Concerto’s material.
Korngold also has the confident effrontery to end this
symphonically-proportioned Sonata with a quiet poetic glow
rather than a brazen Götterdämmerung. The Sonata
has a satiated sunset quality which reminded me of the
Delius Violin Sonatas 2 and 3 and the Cello Sonata. If
you appreciate those works you will love this which also
has drama aplenty.
This recording of the Violin Concerto
is from a live concert in 2006.
It is hemmed about with exalted and
robust competition. My favourites include
the deliberately unglamorous 1994 version
by Ulrike-Anima Mathé on Dorian DOR-90216
and, from much earlier, the equally
understated Ulf Hoelscher. Worth hearing
alongside Hoelscher (EMI Red
Line) are Cuckson (Centaur),
Perlman (EMI Classics 5096762)
(DG). They’re all a freshening breeze
and relief from Heifetz's relentless
hegemony on BMG-RCA.
does not give the impression of flying through the virtuoso
demands of the score with quite the fluidity of his colleagues.
One senses the effort he has to invest in the Korngold’s
demands. On the other hand his is a poetic and sensitive
reading with a sense of luxuriantly expansive grandeur which
is very much to the fore in the first two movements. It is
at its zenith in the gentle descent of the Romance; here
superbly calculated. Waltman does all this without the all-too-easy
surrender to slush.
record the concerto references Korngold’s film scores for Another
Dawn (1937) (I), Juarez (1939) (I), Anthony
Adverse (1936) (II) and The Prince and the Pauper (III).
for this cleverly coupled disc are also by Paul Waltman.
They remind us that although Heifetz premiered the Concerto
it was actually written with the encouragement of Hubermann
who sadly became evasive over a premiere date. Heifetz then
moved in and the rest is history. Had Hubermann's been the
recorded version of the Concerto we had known on disc the
chromium-rigorous image of the work as left by Heifetz and
RCA might have been very different. Mind you I am not sure
that it would have been recorded so early.
The ‘hook’ for
this disc is the Sonata which I have not heard bettered and
remains neglected. Into the bargain you get a grandly poetic
version of the concerto though not one that for me displaces
Anima-Mathé or Hoelscher.
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