November 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Curio Corner

Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD
Orchestral Music:
Fairytale Pictures; Prelude and Carnival – Violanta
Schauspiel Overture; Straussiana; Tales of Strauss;
Theme and Variations
 
  Bruckner Orchestra, Linz conducted by Caspar Richter.
  ASV CD DCA 1108   [68:38]

Korngold: orchestral Music

Korngold was, of course, one of the major pioneers of film music contributing some of the finest ever scores for 1930s and ’40s Warner Bros fims like The Adventures of Robin Hood, Elizabeth and Essex and King’s Row. Before he arrived in America, his music had enjoyed considerable acclaim in Vienna where he had been something of a child prodigy. This recording is a compilation of his non-film music before and after his Hollywood years.

The compilation opens with the Prelude and Carnival music from his opera Violanta. Korngold wrote this lurid, melodramatic work, full of lust, revenge and murder, when he was only seventeen. The music is very atmospheric and evocative and "filmic". Richter responds with a creepily atmospheric and sensual reading.

Korngold’s thrilling and opulent Schauspiel Overture (Overture to a Drama), written when he was only fourteen, anticipates his Hollywood swashbucklers. The Märchenbilder (Fairytale Pictures) were originally composed for piano in 1910, then orchestrated by the composer shortly afterwards, when he was thirteen years old. Again the music anticipates Korngold’s film music. The opening "The Enchanted Princess", for instance, looks forward to Robin Hood. The titles of the other movements all speak for themselves in their music: "The Ruler of the Spirits", "The Goblins", "The Fairy King’s Ball", "The Brave Little Tailor" and "The Fairytale speaks an Epilogue." They are all imaginative and full of the magical charm of childhood.

The Theme and Variations was written after Korngold’s film music career was virtually over in 1952. The work is directed to be played "like an Irish folk tune". The variations vary in mood: wistful, merry, romantic and nostalgic, with the final, longest variation in heroic mould, again recalling Korngold’s music for The Adventures of Robin Hood. Richter is high-spirited and his "Robin Hood" music has wit and swagger while his romantic and nostalgic variations pull at the heartstrings.

Straussiana (1953) comprises sparkling reorchestrations of three lesser-known pieces by Johann Strauss II and this is the premiere recording of Tales of Strauss. This lilting, sparkling work is Franz Kopriva’s orchestration of Korngold’s 1927 piano fantasia on the music of Johann Strauss.

Korngold fans may have these works already on excellent albums from cpo and Chandos. Your choice will depend on discs’ contents.

Ian Lace

***

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