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Erich Wolfgang Korngold

2021-12-11 — Michael Haupt

Have you heard of composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold? If not, I'm still pretty sure you've heard at least some music influenced by him if you've ever been to the cinema to watch some Hollywood block buster.

Korngold was born in Vienna and started being recognised as a composer at a very young age, much like Mozart, and his sponsors included such illustrious and influential people as Gustav Mahler and Arturo Toscanini. His musical style was an accomplished advanced Viennese very early on. Korngold's Sinfonietta op. 5 (composed as a teenager) is an early masterpiece, sporting a wonderfully lighthearted brilliance. His first opera, Die tote Stadt op. 21, was a worldwide success.

This genius' career came to a brutal interruption when he, being Jewish, had no other choice but to leave Europe in the Thirties. He went to Hollywood and started composing movie scores - and this is how his lasting influence came about. Korngold had significant influence on the style, and there is a very direct line from him to contemporary composers like John Williams. (If you like the Fifties' Robin Hood movie with Errol Flynn, watch it again, and listen up. The music is all Korngold.)

Personally, I haven't heard a piece of music written by Korngold that I've found uninteresting. Some of his tunes are extremely sticky and touching, such as this aria from his opera Die Kathrin, where the main protagonist is writing a love letter. You can hear it.

Tags: music