see also

Korngold, Erich Wolfgang

(b Brno, 29 May 1897; d Hollywood, CA, 29 Nov 1957). Austrian composer. The second son of the eminent music critic Julius Korngold (1860--1945), he was a remarkable child prodigy composer. In 1906 he played his cantata Gold to Gustav Mahler, who pronounced him a genius and recommended that he be sent to Zemlinsky for tuition. At the age of 11 he composed the ballet Der Schneemann, a sensation when it was first performed at the Vienna Court Opera (1910); he followed this with a Piano Trio and a remarkable Piano Sonata in E that so impressed Artur Schnabel that he championed the work all over Europe. Richard Strauss remarked: 'One's first reaction that these compositions are by a child are those of awe and concern that so precocious a genius should follow its normal development .... This assurance of style, this mastery of form, this characteristic expressiveness, this bold harmony, are truly astonishing!'. Giacomo Puccini, Jean Sibelius, Bruno Walter, Arthur Nikisch, Engelbert Humperdinck, Karl Goldmark and many others were similarly impressed.

Korngold was 14 when he wrote his first orchestral work, the Schauspiel Ouverture; his Sinfonietta appeared the following year. His first operas, Der Ring des Polykrates and Violanta, were completed in 1914. With the appearance of the opera Die tote Stadt, completed when he was 23 and acclaimed internationally after its dual premiere in Hamburg and Cologne (1920), his early fame reached its height. After completing the first Left Hand Piano Concerto, commissioned by Wittgenstein in 1923, he began his fourth and arguably greatest opera, Das Wunder der Heliane (1927), and started arranging and conducting classic operettas by Johann Strauss and others. He also began teaching opera and composition at the Vienna Staatsakademie and was awarded the title professor honoris causa by the president of Austria.

Max Reinhardt, with whom Korngold had collaborated on versions of Die Fledermaus and La belle Helene, invited him to Hollywood in 1934 to work on his celebrated film of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Over the next four years, Korngold pioneered a new art form, the symphonic film score, in such classics as Captain Blood, The Prince and the Pauper and Anthony Adverse (for which he won the first of two Academy Awards). The Anschluss prevented him from staging his fifth opera, Die Kathrin, and he remained in Hollywood composing some of the finest music written for the cinema. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938, winner of his second Academy Award), The Sea Hawk (1940) and Kings Row (1941) are his greatest works in the genre. Treating each film as an 'opera without singing' (each character has his or her own leitmotif) he created intensely romantic, richly melodic and contrapuntally intricate scores, the best of which are a cinematic paradigm for the tone poems of Richard Strauss and Franz Liszt. He intended that, when divorced from the moving image, these scores could stand alone in the concert hall. His style exerted a profound influence on modern film music.

After the war Korngold returned to absolute music, composing, among other works, a Violin Concerto (1937, rev. 1945) first performed by Heifetz, a Cello Concerto (1946), a Symphonic Serenade for string orchestra (1947) given its premiere by Furtwangler, and the Symphony in F (1947--52). His late Romantic style, however, was completely out of step with the postwar era and when he died at the age of 60, he believed himself forgotten. After decades of neglect, a gradual reawakening of interest in his music occurred. At the time of his centenary (1997) his works were becoming increasingly popular, appearing on major recordings and concert programmes around the world.

(selective list)

Ops: Der Ring des Polykrates (1, J. Korngold and L. Feld, after H. Teweles), op.7, 1914, Munich, 28 March 1916; Violanta (1, H. Muller), op.8, 1914, Munich, 28 March 1916; Die tote Stadt (3, P. Schott [E.W. and J. Korngold], after G. Rodenbach: Bruges la morte), op.12, 1920, Hamburg and Cologne, 4 Dec 1920; Das Wunder der Heliane (3, Muller, after H. Kalneker), op.20, 1927, Hamburg, 7 Oct 1927; Die Kathrin (3, E. Decsey), op.28, Stockholm, 7 Oct 1939
Film scores: A Midsummer Night's Dream (dir. M. Reinhardt), 1934 [arr. of Mendelssohn]; Captain Blood (dir. M. Curtiz), 1935; Anthony Adverse (dir. M. Le Roy), 1936; Give Us This Night (dir. A. Hall), 1936; The Green Pastures (dir. W. Keighley), 1936 [orch sequences]; Rose of the Rancho, 1936 [one song]; Another Dawn (dir. W. Dieterle), 1937; The Prince and the Pauper (dir. Keighley), 1937; The Adventures of Robin Hood (dir. Curtiz and Keighley), 1938; Juarez (dir. Dieterle), 1939; The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (dir. Curtiz), 1939; The Sea Hawk (dir. Curtiz), 1940; Kings Row (dir. S. Wood), 1941; The Sea Wolf (dir. Curtiz), 1941; The Constant Nymph (dir. E. Goulding), 1942; Between Two Worlds (dir. E.A. Blatt), 1944; Devotion (dir. C. Bernhardt), 1943; Of Human Bondage (dir. Goulding), 1944; Deception (dir. I. Rapper), 1946; Escape Me Never (dir. P. Godfrey), 1946; Magic Fire (dir. Dieterle), 1954 [arr. of Wagner]
Other: Gold (cant.), solo vv, pf, 1906, lost; Der Schneemann (ballet pantomime, E.W. Korngold), Vienna, 4 Oct 1910 [orchd Zemlinsky, rev. Korngold 1913]; Much Ado about Nothing (incid music, W. Shakespeare), op.11, 1918--19, 6 May 1920; The Silent Serenade (stage comedy, E.W. Korngold, B. Reisfeld and W. Okie), op.36, 1946, 26 March 1951

Schauspiel Ouverture, op.4, 1911; Sinfonietta, op.5, 1912; Sursum corda, sym. ov., op.13, 1919; Pf Conc., C, op.17, pf left hand, orch, 1923; Baby Serenade, op.24, small orch, 1928--9; Vn Conc., D, op.35, 1937, rev. 1945; Tomorrow, sym. poem, op.33, Mez, chorus, orch, 1942; Vc Conc., C, op.37, 1946; Sym., F, op.40, 1947--52; Sym. Serenade, B, str, op.39, 1947; Theme and Variations, op.42, school orch, 1953

chamber and keyboard
Don Quixote, pf, pieces, 1908; Pf Sonata no.1, d, 1908; Pf Trio, D, op.1, 1909; Pf Sonata no.2, E, op.2, 1910; Marchenbilder, 7 pf pieces, op.3, 1910; Sonata, D, op.6, vn, pf, 1912; Str Sextet, D, op.10, 1914--16; Pf Qnt, E, op.15, 1921; Str Qt no.1, A, op.16, 1921--3; 4 Little Caricatures, op.19, pf, 1926; Tales of Strauss, op.21, pf, 1927; Suite, op.23, pf left hand, str, 1930; Pf Sonata no.3, C, op.25, 1931; Str Qt no.2, E, op.26, 1933; Str Qt no.3, D, op.34, 1944--5; Romance impromptu, vc, pf, op. posth., 1946

6 einfache Lieder (J.F. von Eichendorff, E. Honold, H. Kipper, S. Trebitsch), op.9, 1911--13; [4] Abschiedslieder (C. Rosetti, A. Kerr, E. Ronsperger, E. Lothar), op.14, A, pf/orch, 1920--21; 3 Lieder (H. Kaltneker), op.18, 1924; 3 Lieder (K. Kobald, E. van der Straten), op.22, 1928--9; The Eternal (E. van der Straten), song cycle, op.27, 1933; 4 Lieder (Shakespeare: Othello, As You Like It), op.31, 1937; Songs of the Clown (W. Shakespeare: Twelfth Night), op.29, 1937; 5 Lieder (R. Dehmel, Eichendorff, H. Koch, Shakespeare), op.38, medium v, pf, 1948; Sonett fur Wien (Kaltneker), op.41, Mez, pf, 1953
MSS in US-Wc
Principal publisher: Schott

KdG (S. Rode-Breymann)
E. Newman: 'The Problem of Erich Korngold', The Nation (24 Aug 1912)
R.S. Hoffmann: Erich Wolfgang Korngold (Vienna, 1922)
E.W. Korngold: 'Some Experiences in Film Music', Music and Dance in California, ed. J. Rodriguez (Hollywood, 1940), 137--9
R. Behlmer: 'Erich Wolfgang Korngold -- Established Some of the Film Music Basics Film Composers Now Ignore', Films in Review, no.182 (1967), 86--100
L. Korngold: Erich Wolfgang Korngold (Vienna, 1967)
J. Korngold: Die Korngolds in Wien (Zurich, 1991)
S. Blickensdorfer: Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Opern und Filmmusik (diss., U. of Vienna, 1993)
R. van der Lek, trans. M. Swithinbank: 'Concert Music as Reused Film Music', AcM, lxvi (1994), 8--112
B.G. Carroll: The Last Prodigy (Portland, OR, 1997)