March 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD Concert and Operatic Music: Sursum Corda; Baby Serenade; Interlude: Das Wunder Der Heliane; Prelude and Serenade: Der Schneemann; Prelude Act I: Die Tote Stadt Caspar Richter conducts the Bruckner Orchester Linz   ASV CD DCA 1074 [61:45]

Save around 22% with
the retailers listed at the end



Poor James Horner is always getting stick for self-quotation (and quoting others) but, of course, self quotation has always been practised by even the greatest composers including Bach, Haydn, Mozart Beethoven and Schubert - and Erich Wolfgang Korngold. If you ever wondered where all his glorious music for The Adventures of Robin Hood came from, this album provides part of the answer - from material in his Sursum Corda composed in 1920.

Sursum Corda was dedicated to Richard Strauss, Korngold's mentor in his early years.

As Brendan Carroll says in his booklet notes, it is "a highly concentrated and difficult work, its constantly shifting metre making it a nightmare for conductors..." Richter gives a crisp and bravura enough reading of a work that has a tremendously wide compass embracing the heroic and romantic, a fairy-lightness contrasted with dramatic shadows and eerie, mysterious, even harrowing material. Yet in places I felt that it threatened to defeat him.

This adventurous ASV programme includes dramatic music from two of Korngold's operas that could easily have served as film music. From his most successful opera Die Tote Stadt (The Dead City) we have the magnificent Prelude to Act II which is really a miniature tone poem. It is a vivid evocation of the medieval city of Bruges with its tolling bells and the wind coursing through its streets and canals, and its procession of nuns. The opera concerns a man who is obsessed with his beautiful dead wife and who then meets a young dancer who looks exactly like her. The Prelude opens, darkly, with the voice of the dead wife singing, "You are gripped by life, you are attracted by the other one. Look, look and realise..." The Interlude between Acts 2 and 3 of Korngold's 1927 opera Das Wunder der Heliane (The Miracle of Heliane) is a massive funeral march. Sombre brass fanfares and swirling string glissandi create the grim yet strangely erotic mood heightened by the central love music reprised from Act 2.

In more cheerful mood, Baby Serenade, first performed in 1932, was a celebration of the birth of his second son George Korngold (who would go on to produce, with Charles Gerhardt, so many great classical film score recordings). Comprising five movements, Baby Serenade is scored for 14 wind instruments (including jazz trumpet and three saxophones), banjo, harp, piano, and string orchestra. It begins with 'Baby Enters the World' in a joyful whirl; then 'Song: It is a good baby' is a sweet lullaby; while 'It has really beautiful toys' evokes the baby playing with his toy soldiers to the tune of the Radetzky March. 'Jazz - Baby tells a story' is an amusing perpetuum mobile to create the effect of the little child talking endlessly and repeating himself. The final 'And now he sings himself to sleep' is another gentle lullaby and we hear a church bell as he nods off. These little pieces are played with humour and sensitivity by the Linz orchestra, and the cheeky sting in the tail of the last movement is very appealing.

The programme also includes two brief but enchanting pieces from The Snowman - the Prelude and Serenade. It is incredible to think that these two assured pieces were written by an 11-year old boy.



Ian Lace


Ian Lace

Reviews from previous months

Reviews carry sales links
but you can also purchase

Return to Index