Monday, January 10, 2011

Better Know a Composer: Erich Korngold

Most people who know anything about Erich Korngold know that he was a film composer. Some might also place him as the fin-de-siecle Viennese wunderkind that put the fear of God into Strauss.

My first contact with Korngold came as a graduate student, when I heard Gil Shaham's recording of his violin concerto. What struck me about the music--particularly the first movement--was that it had nothing superfluous. It was perfect, polished, and immediately satisfying.

Before Shaham, Heifetz owned Korngold's concerto. Since Shaham, a lot of violinists have taken up the piece in concert and on record, including Hilary Hahn, James Ehnes, and Philippe Quint.

Philippe recorded it for Naxos.  My friend Raymond Bisha produced a podcast on Korngold for Naxos, which you can listen to on the Arkivmusic website.

If we waste our time on that musical painter of light Rachmaninov, we can do worse than to pay some attention to Korngold as well. Renee Fleming is singing his songs tomorrow night at Carnegie Hall, and I also suggest you listen to any one of the violin concerto recordings out there.