About this Recording
8.553579 - KORNGOLD / GOLDMARK: Violin Concertos

Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897 - 1957) Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35
Karl Goldmark (1830 - 1915)
Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor, Op. 28

Erich Wolfgang Korngold was the second son of the distinguished Viennese music critic Julius Korngold. As a child he showed remarkable precocity, and embarked on the study of composition at the age of six. His father was on good terms with Mahler and in 1906 the boy played by heart for him his new cantata, Gold, while Mahler followed the score, exclaiming "A genius", as the music continued. He advised Julius Korngold to avoid the Conservatory and allow his son to study with Zemlinsky, Alma Mahler's former teacher and brother-in-law of Schoenberg, while Robert Fuchs was persuaded to give him lessons in counterpoint. The connection with Mahler continued and the Korngolds visited him in succeeding summers when he was at Toblach. In the summer of 1909 the boy played to Mahler a new Scherzo he had written and a Passacaglia on a theme of Zemlinsky. Mahler advised him to add a first movement to these pieces and make of them a sonata, the result of which was Korngold's Piano Sonata No.1 in D minor. By this time the boy's reputation had aroused wider interest from, among others, Engelbert Humperdinck and Richard Strauss, Nikisch and even Weingartner. In 1910 Julius Korngold allowed the private publication by Universal Edition of three of his son's compositions, Der Schneemann (The Snowman), Charakterstücke zu Don Ouixote (Character Pieces based on Don Ouixote) and the Piano Sonata in D minor, for the exclusive use of musicians. The pantomime Der Schneemann was performed at the palace of the Baroness Nienerth at a charity gala in 1910, in the original version for two pianos. Six months later it was staged at the Court Opera orchestrated by Zemlinsky and conducted by Franz Schalk, a performance sanctioned by Weingartner, who replaced Mahler at the Court Opera and whose relationship with Julius Korngold was one of considerable hostility. In Munich, where, with his father, he had attended the first performance of Mahler's Eighth Symphony, Korngold played his second piano sonata in the presence of Paul Dukas and Camille Saint-Saens, arousing their amazement and admiration. His Trio, Opus 1, written without the knowledge of his teacher, who had by some been wrongly credited with a large share in the composition of Der Schneemann, was performed at this time in Vienna by Arnold Rose, Mahler's brother-in-law, with Friedrich Buxbaum and Bruno Walter and in 1911 his Schauspielouvertüre and Sinfonietta were played by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and later by the Vienna Philharmonic. His one-act operas Der Ring des Polykrates and Violanta won immediate success in Munich in 1916, under the direction of Bruno Walter, and he later conducted them himself at the Vienna Court Opera. In 1920, the year of his operatic triumph with Die tote Stadt, staged in Hamburg and in Cologne, he made his debut in Vienna as an orchestra conductor, embarking on a career as conductor, pianist and composer that earned him official recognition in Vienna.

In 1934 Korngold moved to Hollywood, where he continued an earlier association with Max Reinhardt, with whom he had collaborated on a Berlin staging of Die Fledermaus in 1928. In America he continued an earlier project, a film version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The annexation of Austria prevented his return home and he remained in Hollywood, composing film-scores for some fifteen films for Warner Brothers. F9r two of his film-scores, Anthony Adverse (1936) and Robin Hood (1938), he was awarded Oscars. In the 1940s he conducted the New York Opera Company in performances of operettas by Johann Strauss and Offenbach and in 1943 became a naturalised American. After the war he was able to give greater attention to compositions of another kind, with his Violin Concerto, introduced to the concert public by Heifetz, Cello Concerto and Symphony in F sharp major. He died in Hollywood in 1957.

There is no doubt that Korngold's association with Hollywood did little to further his reputation as a serious composer for the concert-hall or opera-house, in spite of the obvious quality of the music he wrote for Warner Brothers. His style, later romantic, in spite of the association of his name with that of Schoenberg in a popular poll in Vienna in 1926, where the two were described as the greatest composers then living there, again did little to endear him to critics eager for some fashionable novelty of musical idiom. He summed up his own career as first that of a prodigy, then an opera composer in Europe, followed by a period as a movie composer. At the time of writing, 1946, he determined to end his work as a Hollywood composer, although he had always striven to write for the cinema music tha1 could stand alone, independent of the film for which it was composed.

Korngold's Violin Concerto in D major, Opus 35, was written in 1945. In style it is thoroughly romantic, even in its opening hinting at the melodic contours of a Rachmaninov symphony, and, rightly or wrongly, it is difficult to dispel from the mind the image of Hollywood. Nevertheless, within its own late romantic musical idiom, the concerto is a significant addition to violin repertoire. The soloist enters at once, before the music moves forward into more energetic material for the soloist, with recurrent reminders of the opening figure, with all its rhapsodic connotations. There is a fiercely vigorous cadenza, with brief interruptions from the orchestra, before the violin ascends to the heights, allowing the orchestra, then joined by the soloist, to complete the movement, finally in a passage of some brilliance. The slow movement Romanze offers an immediate contrast, with a poignant solo violin melody over a gentle orchestral accompaniment. The mood changes at once with the lively finale, a movement with a distinctively rhythmic principal theme, with which more overtly romantic material forms a contrast. There is a rapid, exciting and brilliant conclusion to the concerto, a wild dance that allows the soloist pyrotechnic display.

Karl Goldmark belongs to a much earlier generation in the Austro-Hungarian musical tradition. He was born in the Hungarian town of Keszthely in 1830, three years before the birth of Brahms in Hamburg, and died in Vienna in 1915 four years after the death of Mahler, three years before the death of Debussy. His career spanned a long period of great musical change, although he remained himself firmly in the tradition of Mendelssohn, tempered by the influence of Wagner and Liszt. He was one of a family of twenty, familiar from childhood with the music of the countryside and of the synagogue. The size of the family and the modest resources of his father deprived him of a consistent education and he had his first instruction on the violin from a local choir member in 1841 in Deutsch- Kreuz, where his family had settled in 1834. In 1842 he continued his music studies in the nearby town of Ödenburg and two years later was sent by his father to Vienna, where he was able to study for some eighteen months with Jansa before lack of money compelled cessation of this course, leaving him to teach himself in preparation for entry first to the Vienna Technical School and then to the Conservatory to study the violin with Joseph Böhm The disturbances of 1848 and the temporary closure of the Conservatory brought a return to Deutsch-Kreuz and work in the theatre orchestra in Ödenburg, followed in 1851 by similar employment in Vienna at the Josefstadt Theatre and later at the Carlstheater. Here he acquired a thorough practical knowledge of theatre music that was of use to him in his own work as a composer.

Goldmark's first concert of his own compositions in Vienna in 1858 was not well received, inducing him to move to Budapest, where he supported himself by teaching, while studying traditional textbooks on the techniques of composition and the music of Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. By 1860 he was again in Vienna, where he won success with his String Quartet, Opus 8, and began to establish himself as a music critic and fervent supporter of the cause of Wagner. His importance as a composer was fully established with his Overture Sakuntala in 1865, reinforced ten years later by the most significant of his operas, Die Königin von Saba (The Queen of Sheba). Official honours in Vienna and Budapest confirmed his leading position in the musical world of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, an eminence acknowledged also in Italy, where Die Königin von Saba won immediate popularity. His later operas include Merlin, Das Heimchen am Herd (The Cricket on the Hearth), based on Dickens, Die Kriegsgefangene (Briseïs) (The Prisoner of War), Golz von Berlichingen, after Goethe, and, with greater success, Ein Wintermürchen (A Winter's Tale), from Shakespeare. In orchestral repertoire his works include two symphonies and two symphonic poems, with a number of concert overtures, while his Violin Concerto retains a place in modern repertoire.

Goldmark's lyrical gifts are immediately shown in the first movement of his Violin Concerto in A minor, Opus 28, a work that one writer, at least, has seen as in the tradition of Spohr Dating from 1877, it reflects still more a development of the musical language of Mendelssohn The first movement includes an attractive cadenza and is couched in thoroughly violinistic terms that allow a measure of the virtuosic and the romantically rhapsodic. The Allegro moderato ends forcefully, the minor key preserved. The second movement Air opens in meditative serenity, with an orchestral introduction, over which the soloist enters with a melody that at once suggests the musical idiom of Mendelssohn. The orchestra provides a brief introduction to the last movement, before the soloist enters with an energetic dance-like melodic line, to which further thematic material provides a contrast, with a cadenza, leading to rapid passage-work, as the concerto draws to a close. Here again, it is possible to detect echoes of Mendelssohn in the occasional turn of phrase. Nevertheless, whatever its debt to tradition, the concerto has elements that place it firmly in the 1870s rather than in the 1840s. These include the increased demands made on the soloist, the handling of the orchestra in a generation that knew Wagner and the place of the work in the music of its own period, written a year before the violin concertos of Brahms and of Tchaikovsky, which ventured much further, and nine years after Max Bruch's less demanding Violin Concerto in G minor.

Vera Tsu, Violin
Born in Shanghai, Vera (Weiling) Tsu studied the violin with her father, a well known teacher, and at the Beijing Conservatory. Here she attracted the attention of Isaac Stern, appearing in his film From Mao to Mozart, Seiji Ozawa and Yehudi Menuhin, the last of whom sponsored her study in Switzerland. In 1980 she entered the Juilliard School of Music in New York, where she studied with Dorothy Delay and Rafael Bronstein, winning first prize in the Manoque International Young Artist Competition in 1981 and later the Waldo Mayo Talent Award and the Artists International Competition. Her career has brought recitals and appearances as a soloist in the United States, in Europe and in China, with a notable solo recital in Paris in 1993 in a gala concert at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees for the Legion d'Honneur. In the same year she moved to Hong Kong as First Associate Concertmaster of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

Yu Long
The Chinese conductor Yu Long was born in 1964 in Shanghai, where he studied composition and conducting at the Conservatory before moving to Germany in 1987. Here he studied at the Cologne Musikhochschule and the West Berlin Hochschule, attracting attention first when he conducted the Berlin Symphony Orchestra and the Hallé Orchestra. In 1990 he was appointed first resident conductor of the Tullingen Symphony Orchestra and since then has enjoyed a bust conducting career in Europe, Asia and Australia. In 1992 he was appointed resident conductor of the China Central Opera Theatre and has also undertaken engagements in Taiwan.

The Razumovsky Sinfonia
The Razumovsky Sinfonia was established in 1995 and employs the finest players of the Slovak Philharmonic, Bratislava Radio Symphony, Slovak Chamber and Slovak Opera Theatre Orchestras. The ensemble records exclusively for Naxos and Marco Polo records.

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