Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

A compilation of CD reviews of the music of Erich Wolfgang Kongold (1897-1957)

The decline in the reputation of Korngold is one of the scandals of modern musical times. Like Mozart he declared his genius at a young age. It was Mahler who declared him a genius when the 10 year-old played him his cantata, Gold, at the piano, and Puccini who regarded him as "the greatest hope of German music". He was only 13 when his ballet Der Schneeman (orchestrated by his teacher, Zemlinksy) was produced at the Vienna Hofoper, whilst Artur Schnabel was programming his Op.2 sonata. Korngold was still only 18 when Bruno Walter peformed Der Ring des Polykrates and Violanta in Berlin. 1923 saw the simultaneous premières of Die Tote Stadt in Hamburg under Egon Polak and in Cologne with Otto Klemperer.  Die Tote Stadt (The Dead City) was a great success (although the music has been described as "tawdry - Strauss and Puccini, plus dashes of Mahler and Debussy, served in syrup. The melody flows like treacle - and is similarly adhesive" [Andrew Porter]). Clearly Korngold was a new wunderkind who was able to write wonderful, romantic tunes and it was this ability that served him well when, in 1935, he moved to Hollywood to findfame as a composer of film music.  He accepted American Citizenship in 1943. His greatest successes were The Sea Hawk (reviewed below), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, The Prince and the Pauper whilst earning Oscars for Anthony Adverse and The Adventures of Robin Hood. He was, at the same time, producing other major works: String Quartet No.2 (1935), Violin Concerto (1945), Cello Concerto (1946), Symphony (1951) but the critics and musical public were no longer  prepared to regard him as a serious composer. He died in 1957 a forgotten man. It is only through the cinema and the recording industry that his name has been kept alive and with a spate of releases in recent years he is once again being regarded as a major composer.

Len Mullenger

See also    Biography by Brendan Carroll and other Korngold news                        Latest recording news here

Index of reviews

Erich WOLFGANG KORNGOLD Symphony in F sharp; The Sea Hawk Suite Oregon SO conducted by James De Preist DELOS DE3234

Max = 5stars

The Snowman (Act I); Fairy Tale Pictures (Premiere Recording); Overture to a Drama; Prelude and Carnival from Violanta Matthias Bamert conducting the BBC Philharmonic CHANDOS CHAN 9631 [65:41]


Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD Piano Concerto in C sharp for the left hand Joseph MARX Romantisches Klavierkonzert in E Major Marc-André Hamelin (piano); Osmo Vãnskã conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra HYPERION CDA66990

Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD Suite for 2 Violins, Cello and Piano Left Hand Franz SCHMIDT Quintet in G Major for 2 Violins, Viola, Cello and Piano Left Hand Leon Fleisher (piano); Joseph Silverstein and Jaime Laredo (violins); Michael Tree (viola) Yo-Yo Ma (cello) SONY SK 48253

Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD String Quartets Nos 1 (1924) and 2 (1934) Flesch Quartet ASV CD DCA 1035 [57:31]

Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD Piano Music Ingrid Jacoby CARLTON 30366 01102
Fairytale Pictures; Four Little Caricatures; Much Ado About Nothing; Pierrot's Dance Song (The Dead City); Don Quixote; Four Waltzes for Piano; Tales of Strauss

Eric Wolfgang KORNGOLD The Sea Hawk Utah SO conducted by Varujan KojianVARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-47304 [44:28]


Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD's arrangements of Mendelssohn's music for Max Reinhardt's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Celina Lindsley (Titania); Michelle Breedt (Fairy); Scot Weir (Demetrius and Lysander); Michael Burt (Oberon); Rundfunkchor Berlin; Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin conducted by Gerd Albrecht.  cpo 999 449-2 [59:58]


Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD Die Kathrin Melanie Diener; David Rendall; Robert Hayward; Lillian Watson; Della Jones; BBC Singers; BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins CPO 999 602-2 3CDs [162:22]

Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD Songs and Chamber Music  Anne Sofie Von Otter; Bengt Forsberg    2CDs DG 459 631-2 [119:15]
4 Lieder Des Abschieds Op.14, Quintet for 2 violins, viola, cello, and piano,
Songs of the Clown, 2 Lieder, 4 Shakespearean Songs, 3 Lieder Op. 22, Suite for 2 violins, cello, and piano (left hand), Marietta's Lied (arr. Forsberg)

Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (World Premier Recording of the complete score)    Carl Davis conducts the Munich Symphony Orchestra VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-5696 [65:35]

Erich WOLFGANG KORNGOLD Symphony in F sharp;  The Sea Hawk Suite Oregon SO conducted by James De Preist  DELOS DE3234 [62:00]

Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD Devotion   William T. Stromberg conducting the Moscow Symphony Orchestra MARCO POLO 8.225038 [69:40]


ERICH WOLFGANG KORNGOLD (1897-1957) String Sextet (1915)  String Quartet No 3 (1945)   Flesch Quartet plus others ASV CD DCA 1062 [59:27]

Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD Piano Quintet in E Major. Suite Op. 23 (1930) Kathryn Brake (Piano); George Marsh (Violin); Claudia Chudacoff (violin); Nancy Thomas Weller (viola), Steven Honigberg (cello).   ALBANY TROY 348 [68:58]


Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD Juarez - The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex - The Sea Wolf James Sedares conducting the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra   Koch International Classics 3-7302-2H1 [60:35]


Prelude: Act II Die Tote Stadt (1920) 7.25
Sursum Corda overture (1920) 18.36
Baby Serenade (1928) 21.32
Prelude and Serenade from Der Schneeman (1908) 4.42
Interlude from Das Wunder der Heliane (1926) 8.29
Bruckner Orchestra Linz/Caspar Richter
rec 29-31 March 1999 ASV CDDCA 1074 [61.45]


Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
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]
A valuable addition to the Korngold discography that would have benefited more from more expressive playing.
The Complete Piano Music - Martin Jones
NIMBUS 4-CDs NI 5705/8 [5 hrs]
An essential survey and I feel sure that they will derive much pleasure dipping into these four CDs

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