Child prodigy and 1940’s film composer Erich Korngold should make a reappearance on everyone’s CD shelf with EMI’s Classics series. This two CD set shows off his non-Hollywood compositions including his only violin concerto, and the Much Ado About Nothing Suite.
Disc one begins with Korngold’s beautiful Violin Concerto, with beautiful violin arpeggios interspersed with flowing chords that conjure image of 40’s style film. The allegro third movement was certainly full of energy and had impressive technical violin solos. Ulf Hoelscher violinist performing in this concerto did a marvelous job and made the very difficult sound easy and fun. The transition to the Symphony in F Sharp was a great one, continuing the energy in the last movement of the Violin Concerto. I enjoyed this late-romantic and transitional symphony as it still held some form that make the Romantics a good listen, but expanded on those ideas. Korngold did wonderful things with the Symphony, embellishing with big-band-like brass hits, flowing strings in a quiet minor melody, and making the symphony sound unique.
The second disc begins with a beautiful violin sonata that was composed with much emotion by Korngold, but not played with the same level. I felt that in many places the piano player Israela Margalit did a better job at making the piece musical than did the violin soloist. The sonata was still a great piece; it would have been over the top excellent if there was more emotion. The five lieders (songs) were excellent and the soprano soloist, Barbara Hendricks, was superb. It was interesting to hear some songs that were so different from his cinematic soundtracks. Much Ado about Nothing is a great suite that everyone should listen to at least once, one of my favorites; it is just a fun listen. The CD finishes with Erich Korngold’s last orchestra work that reminds of classic Hollywood and is a nice finale for the album.
Erich Korngold is a name that film fanatics recognize, but this new release of his non-film works should connect with all listeners as he covers a wide range of emotions and styles. His music is accessible to all and remains a classic that everyone should know. This two CD album covers Korngold’s repertoire well, and I would suggest for everyone to add this to his or her personal music library.