Another excellent concert in ASV's continuing Korngold series. New Korngold
recordings seem to be pouring out at the moment.
The piece that has the most interest for film music enthusiasts is alas
the least interesting work in this highly recommended compilation. Tomorrow
was written for the film The Constant Nymph for orchestra, (heavenly)
female choir and mezzo-soprano soloist. It is a small-scale symphonic
poem and to be frank it is not top-drawer Korngold. It's all too melodramatic
- even for Korngold and on this evidence one can see why some wags (unjustifiably)
criticised the whole of Korngold's output as being more corn than gold. Its
sombre, lugubrious opening is in the manner of a marche funèbre
with tolling bells recalling his operas Die tote Stadt and Violanta.
It then proceeds in autumnal nostalgia as the (doomed) soloist sings: "When
I am gone, The sun will rise as bright tomorrow morn …Beauty will live..."
Maybe I just cannot dispel my imagined heavily saccharined over-the-top Hollywood
scenario that probably accompanied this music. (I say imagined because the 1943
Warner Bros. film, The Constant Nymph that starred Charles Boyer and
Joan Fontaine seems to be lost to view.) To their credit, Richter and his performers
make this tear-jerking work as convincing as they can but then even the enthusiastic
Charles Gerhardt with the National Philharmonic in his tribute to the cinematic
Korngold ('The Sea Hawk' – 1972 RCA Gold Seal GD 87890) could do much with this
piece! [The words on that recording are different by the way, more 'Hollywoodish'
beginning with "When I am gone another love will cheer thee"
and ending with "The sun will rise as bright tomorrow morn".]
The purely orchestral Much Ado About Nothing Suite for a smaller
ensemble with harmonium and piano is magic under Richter's sure direction. The
Garden Music which is really the Prelude to Act IV is receiving its premiere
recording here – why I cannot imagine for it is quite enchanting. It opens with
distant horn calls to give the piece a brief initial sense of perspective, then
more intimate glistening string-harp-and-harmonium figures, and rippling piano
arpeggios, suggest birdsong and flowers nodding in zephyr breezes – all in gentle
romantic waltz time. The bustling Overture is merry, comic and theatrical with
another of Korngold's attractive broad melodies to which one can imagine Errol
Flynn courting Olivia de Havilland. The quirky use of the harmonium is another
highlight of this tongue-in-cheek overture. The Hornpipe Prelude to Act II is
a high-spirited delight with clever writing for the horn while the Holzapfel
and Schiehwein music is a grotesquely comic march that anticipates Korngold's
more risible Sherwood Forest scenes from his film score, The Adventures of
Robin Hood. The Intermezzo is a dreamy nocturne beginning with a sweetly
melancholic passage for piano and cello – another lovely Korngold creation.
The final movement, The Maiden in the Bridal Chamber is another beautiful
melody – full of character (hesitant romance tinged with comic overtones) as
Hero prepares for her wedding with decidedly mixed feelings.
I review the song cycles, beautifully sung with rapt accompaniments by
the Bruckner Linz Orchestra in great detail over on our sister site MusicWeb.
Tomorrow apart, this is another winner in ASV's continuing Korngold series
with raptly beautiful renditions of the orchestral songs and a beguiling Much
Ado About Nothing Suite.