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Erich Wolfgang Korngold

Composer (1897- 1957)

Erich Wolfgang Korngold


Son of an eminent music critic in Vienna, Korngold showed great precocity and impressed even Mahler by his abilities. He had his first public success as an 11-year-old, with a ballet staged at the Vienna Court Opera. He came to Hollywood in 1934 at the behest of Max Reinhardt, to adapt Mendelssohn's music for the Warner Bros. film version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. He then traveled between Hollywood and Vienna for four years, permanently settling in the US in 1938, at the time of the Anschluss. Korngold earned two Oscar awards for Anthony Adverse (1936) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and four Oscar nominations.

Korngold won success in 1916 with his operas Violanta and The Ring of Polycrates. Still more successful was the opera Die tote Stadt ('The Dead City') first staged on the same evening in Hamburg and Cologne in 1920. The work is a dream-story, suggesting the work of Maeterlinck or Edgar Allan Poe, haunted by ideas of death. The opera was internationally successful and has recently been revived. His other operas were Das Wunder der Heliane and Die Kathrin.

Korngold's Violin Concerto, eventually written after the war, as the demands of Hollywood diminished, is Romantic in style and popular among performers since its first public rendition by Heifetz in 1947.

The music that Korngold wrote for the cinema has a distinction of its own, apart from the films for which it was written, and on occasions provided him with material for later use in another context.

Korngold wrote his First Piano Sonata at the age of 12, adding a second soon after, with a third in 1930. The greater part of his chamber music was written before he left Austria.

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