KORNGOLD / GOLDMARK: Violin Concertos (Long Yu/ Milos Betko/ Razumovsky Symphony Orchestra/ Vera Tsu) (Naxos: 8.553579)
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Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897 - 1957) Violin Concerto in Dmajor, Op. 35
Karl Goldmark (1830 - 1915)
Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor, Op. 28
Erich Wolfgang Korngold was the secondson of the distinguished Viennese music critic Julius Korngold. As a child heshowed remarkable precocity, and embarked on the study of composition at theage of six. His father was on good terms with Mahler and in 1906 the boy playedby heart for him his new cantata, Gold, while Mahler followed the score,exclaiming "A genius", as the music continued. He advised JuliusKorngold to avoid the Conservatory and allow his son to study with Zemlinsky,Alma Mahler's former teacher and brother-in-law of Schoenberg, while RobertFuchs was persuaded to give him lessons in counterpoint. The connection withMahler continued and the Korngolds visited him in succeeding summers when hewas at Toblach. In the summer of 1909 the boy played to Mahler a new Scherzohe had written and a Passacaglia on a theme of Zemlinsky. Mahleradvised him to add a first movement to these pieces and make of them a sonata,the result of which was Korngold's Piano Sonata No.1 in D minor. By thistime the boy's reputation had aroused wider interest from, among others,Engelbert Humperdinck and Richard Strauss, Nikisch and even Weingartner. In1910 Julius Korngold allowed the private publication by Universal Edition ofthree of his son's compositions, Der Schneemann (The Snowman), Charakterst??ckezu Don Ouixote (Character Pieces based on Don Ouixote) and the PianoSonata in D minor, for the exclusive use of musicians. The pantomime DerSchneemann was performed at the palace of the Baroness Nienerth at acharity gala in 1910, in the original version for two pianos. Six months laterit was staged at the Court Opera orchestrated by Zemlinsky and conducted byFranz Schalk, a performance sanctioned by Weingartner, who replaced Mahler atthe Court Opera and whose relationship with Julius Korngold was one ofconsiderable hostility. In Munich, where, with his father, he had attended thefirst performance of Mahler's Eighth Symphony, Korngold played hissecond piano sonata in the presence of Paul Dukas and Camille Saint-Saens,arousing their amazement and admiration. His Trio, Opus 1, writtenwithout the knowledge of his teacher, who had by some been wrongly creditedwith a large share in the composition of Der Schneemann, was performedat this time in Vienna by Arnold Rose, Mahler's brother-in-law, with FriedrichBuxbaum and Bruno Walter and in 1911 his Schauspielouvert??re and Sinfoniettawere played by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and later by the ViennaPhilharmonic. His one-act operas Der Ring des Polykrates and Violantawon immediate success in Munich in 1916, under the direction of BrunoWalter, and he later conducted them himself at the Vienna Court Opera. In 1920,the year of his operatic triumph with Die tote Stadt, staged in Hamburgand in Cologne, he made his debut in Vienna as an orchestra conductor,embarking on a career as conductor, pianist and composer that earned himofficial recognition in Vienna.
In 1934 Korngold moved to Hollywood,where he continued an earlier association with Max Reinhardt, with whom he hadcollaborated on a Berlin staging of Die Fledermaus in 1928. In Americahe continued an earlier project, a film version of Shakespeare's A MidsummerNight's Dream. The annexation of Austria prevented his return home and heremained in Hollywood, composing film-scores for some fifteen films for WarnerBrothers. F9r two of his film-scores, Anthony Adverse (1936) and RobinHood (1938), he was awarded Oscars. In the 1940s he conducted the New YorkOpera Company in performances of operettas by Johann Strauss and Offenbach andin 1943 became a naturalised American. After the war he was able to givegreater attention to compositions of another kind, with his Violin Concerto,introduced to the concert public by Heifetz, Cello Concerto and Symphonyin F sharp major. He died in Hollywood in 1957.
There is no doubt that Korngold'sassociation with Hollywood did little to further his reputation as a seriouscomposer for the concert-hall or opera-house, in spite of the obvious qualityof the music he wrote for Warner Brothers. His style, later romantic, in spiteof the association of his name with that of Schoenberg in a popular poll inVienna in 1926, where the two were described as the greatest composers thenliving there, again did little to endear him to critics eager for somefashionable novelty of musical idiom. He summed up his own career as first thatof a prodigy, then an opera composer in Europe, followed by a period as a moviecomposer. At the time of writing, 1946, he determined to end his work as aHollywood composer, although he had always striven to write for the cinemamusic tha1 could stand alone, independent of the film for which it wascomposed.
Korngold's Violin Concerto in D major,Opus 35, was written in 1945. In style it is thoroughly romantic, even inits opening hinting at the melodic contours of a Rachmaninov symphony, and,rightly or wrongly, it is difficult to dispel from the mind the image ofHollywood. Nevertheless, within its own late romantic musical idiom, theconcerto is a significant addition to violin repertoire. The soloist enters atonce, before the music moves forward into more energetic material for thesoloist, with recurrent reminders of the opening figure, with all its rhapsodicconnotations. There is a fiercely vigorous cadenza, with brief interruptionsfrom the orchestra, before the violin ascends to the heights, allowing the orchestra,then joined by the soloist, to complete the movement, finally in a passage ofsome brilliance. The slow movement Romanze offers an immediate contrast,with a poignant solo violin melody over a gentle orchestral accompaniment. Themood changes at once with the lively finale, a movement with a distinctivelyrhythmic principal theme, with which more overtly romantic material forms acontrast. There is a rapid, exciting and brilliant conclusion to the concerto,a wild dance that allows the soloist pyrotechnic display.
Karl Goldmark belongs to a much earliergeneration in the Austro-Hungarian musical tradition. He was born in theHungarian town of Keszthely in 1830, three years before the birth of Brahms inHamburg, and died in Vienna in 1915 four years after the death of Mahler, threeyears before the death of Debussy. His career spanned a long period of greatmusical change, although he remained himself firmly in the tradition ofMendelssohn, tempered by the influence of Wagner and Liszt. He was one of afamily of twenty, familiar from childhood with the music of the countryside andof the synagogue. The size of the family and the modest resources of his fatherdeprived him of a consistent education and he had his first instruction on theviolin from a local choir member in 1841 in Deutsch- Kreuz, where his familyhad settled in 1834. In 1842 he continued his music studies in the nearby townof ?ûdenburg and two years later was sent by his father to Vienna, where he wasable to study for some eighteen months with Jansa before lack of moneycompelled cessation of this course, leaving him to teach himself in preparationfor entry first to the Vienna Technical School and then to the Conservatory tostudy the violin with Joseph Bohm The disturbances of 1848 and the temporaryclosure of the Conservatory brought a return to Deutsch-Kreuz and work in thetheatre orchestra in ?ûdenburg, followed in 1851 by similar employment in Viennaat the Josefstadt Theatre and later at the Carlstheater. Here he acquired athorough pr