A fresh look at the late-Romantic splendor of Erich Wolfgang Korngold

Posted on: August 20, 2019

“ ‘That sounds like film music’ is a put-down that deserves to be retired,” writes Alex Ross in Monday’s (8/19) New Yorker. “Worst is when the pejorative is used to discount figures who brought distinctive personalities to the scoring business, thereby elevating it. Such was the fate of the composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold.… The Bard Music Festival … is honoring Korngold in this year’s edition…. Korngold … had begun establishing himself in Hollywood as early as 1934 [which] damaged his reputation as a ‘serious’ talent…. Only in the nineteen-seventies did interest in his work reawaken—in part because John Williams paid homage to him in the main-title theme of ‘Star Wars,’ a magnificently Korngoldesque invention…. The Bard festival … includes a semi-staged rendition of ‘Die Tote Stadt’ … and a performance of his Symphony in F-Sharp, which … pivots on an Adagio of almost shocking tragic power—a funeral rite for the destroyed world of the composer’s youth. In that movement, Korngold quotes from his scores for ‘The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex,’ ‘Captain Blood,’ and ‘Anthony Adverse,’ but he alters the material almost beyond recognition [and] fashions what may be the last great symphony in the German Romantic tradition.”

Posted August 20, 2019

In photo: Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s opera Das Wunder der Heliane is having its American premiere, nearly 100 years after it was written, in a staging at the 2019 Bard SummerScape festival. Photo by Stephanie Berger