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KORNGOLD, E.W.: Violin Concerto / Schauspiel Overture / Much Ado About Nothing Suite (Quint, Mineria Symphony, Prieto)

Naxos 8.570791

   St. Petersburg Times, December 2009
   Music & Vision, November 2009
   Fanfare, November 2009
   American Record Guide, November 2009
   MusicWeb International, October 2009
   BBC Music Magazine, October 2009
   The Strad, September 2009
   MusicWeb International, September 2009
   Gramophone, August 2009
   Classic FM, August 2009
   MusicWeb International, July 2009
   Winnipeg Free Press, July 2009, July 2009
   ScreenSounds, July 2009
   International Record Review, July 2009
   David's Review Corner, June 2009, June 2009

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John Fleming
St. Petersburg Times, December 2009

The Violin Concerto is gloriously kitschy and overflowing with themes from Korngold’s movie scores, such as Juarez, Anthony Adverse and The Prince and the Pauper.

There has been no shortage lately of recordings of the concerto by virtuosos from James Ehnes to Nikolaj Znaider. Now Quint adds his lyrical style to the field, well supported by Mexico’s Orquesta Sinfonica de Mineria under Carlos Miguel Prieto. Orchestras on the lookout for fresh concert openers ought to check out the Schauspiel Overture, which Korngold composed as a teenager…

Patric Standford
Music & Vision, November 2009

‘…his emotional command is convincing.’

Despite the name, Philippe Quint was born in Russia and has so far excelled in performances of rich romantic twentieth century pieces by Bernstein, Corigliano, Virgil Thomson, William Schuman, Ned Rorem and Miklós Rózsa, and is well armed to present a thoroughly persuasive and assured performance of Korngold’s superb concerto. There are no flaws here, and his emotional command is convincing. This is a performance I would listen to repeatedly, and stands very high among others of note, including Perlman and the work’s dedicatee Heifetz.

His well controlled and effortless technique also provide a brilliance to that ebullient finale.

The thematic origins are, as with many Korngold works, his film scores, and the group of sources for the concerto include Another Dawn, Anthony Adverse, and for the finale the 1937 film The Prince and the Pauper which starred Errol Flynn. Conductor Prieto helps to make this a valued recording by the including of a vigorous performance of the early Schauspiel Overture, or Overture to a Drama by the fourteen-year-old composer—the first piece he orchestrated without assistance. It was given its première by Nikisch and the Gewandhaus.

The suite from Korngold’s incidental music to Shakespeare’s Much Ado was first heard in Vienna in 1920 and has a substantial Overture followed by four short and typically expressive movements, including a deliciously sleepy Intermezzo for the ‘garden scene’.

Altogether, a delight.

Robert Maxham
Fanfare, November 2009

Like the more recent violinists to tackle the Concerto, Quint emphasizes its sweep and lyricism, soaring to moments of rapturous intensity that make their point unmistakably, even if Heifetz’s indelible performance lurks in the background. Quint makes the first movement cogent, never either stale or derivative—and certainly not as percussive to the bone as Heifetz’s crisp staccato made it seem. In fact, if it sounds like one of the great Romantic masterpieces in Naxos’s recording, that may be as much due to Quint, or to Prieto and the orchestra, who provide a sympathetic and, in the slow movement, a magical accompaniment, as to the composer’s virtuosity. Quint plays throughout with a silvery tone that’s warm even in the middle registers and with a great capacity for expressive nuance; while it’s clear that he’s thoroughly in command of the work’s abundant technical difficulties, he never lets them overwhelm the score’s essential melodiousness. Prieto presents the finale’s boisterous first theme with a robust energy that hearkens unmistakably back to its cinematic origins, and he reaches a stunning climax several minutes before the end. That so many recordings of Korngold’s Violin Concerto have achieved so great a stylistic success, though hardly all poured from the same mold—or even from similar ones—attests to the understanding Korngold must have had of the instrument and its expressive resources. Quint’s stands near the top…not least because of Prieto’s sympathetic accompaniment and the lively recording, which places Quint farther up front, than, say, RCA placed Znaider.

Korngold’s Overture to a Drama, from his 14th year, may not display the same maturity as his Violin Concerto, but it prefigures its sumptuous melodic style and its harmonic lavishness, if not the slickness of its brightly variegated orchestration. In fact, it may be a weakness in the orchestration itself rather than any aspect of Prieto’s performance that prevents the score from making a very deep impression. Korngold adapted the Concert Suite from Much Ado about Nothing for violin and piano, but the full score’s rich orchestral garb makes it even more effective in that more penetratingly witty original version. Prieto and the orchestra generously serve up the youthful and rambunctious good humor of the Suite. The recorded sound throughout combines depth and clarity, and places the soloist in a balance with the ensemble that’s natural if forward. Very highly recommended.

Gil French
American Record Guide, November 2009

Philippe Quint is absolutely gorgeous in the Violin Concerto: deeply expressive, with a wealth of tone colors that project Korngold’s ecstatic melodies over long arches…A word about the orchestra, another of the many hidden classical music gems that exist between Mexico and the tip of South America: in English it would be called the Mining Symphony, a fully professional ensemble established by university-based music-loving mining engineers for the Music Academy they established in Mexico City in 1978. (Mining was the foremost economic activity in colonial Mexico.) Prieto has been principal conductor since 2006…the sound on this album is warm, resonant, and very nicely balanced.

Dan Morgan
MusicWeb International, October 2009

Even in his music for the movies Korngold never lost his echt-Viennese character—just listen to the music he wrote for those sweeping swashbucklers Captain Blood [8.557704] and The Sea Hawk [8.570110–11]—and the same holds true for his violin concerto and other concert pieces. The concerto, premiered by the legendary Heifetz, is one of Korngold’s best- known works—ArkivMusic lists no fewer than 23 versions—helped, no doubt, by the advocacy of some of our finest fiddlers.

A relative newcomer to this club, Russian-born violinist Philippe Quint first came to my attention on a Naxos disc of works by John Corigliano and Virgil Thomson (8.559364). I admired his instinctive musicianship then and I’m pleased to say he doesn’t disappoint now. The rich violin melody that opens the Moderato nobile is just sweet enough—more schlagobers, less sachertorte—and Quint seems almost nonchalant in the more virtuosic writing that follows…Carlos Miguel Prieto also has plenty of rapport with his players, who are every bit as focused and sympathetic in their accompaniment. Just sample the harp playing in the Romance, for instance, where one is transported to the ambiguous, bittersweet sound world of Die Tote Stadt. This is glorious music, eloquently played and recorded…Korngold the child prodigy is represented here by his Overture to a Drama, written when he was just 14 and premiered by no less a band than the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Nikisch. There’s nothing uneven or precocious about this well-made piece; indeed, the music strikes me as Brahmsian in places—it certainly has a bluff quality about it—with a sprinkle of Mendelssohnian fairy dust as well. The Mexican players respond to Korngold’s youthful vigour with a mix of enthusiasm and polish, that recurring theme bandied about the orchestra to great effect. And yes, they do bring a Latin lilt to some of the music’s more rhythmic sections. A most enjoyable performance that ends with a cymbal-capped, rather Brahmsian, flourish (shades of the Academic Festival Overture).

The percussion is no less thrilling in the nimble overture to Korngold’s Much Ado About Nothing suite, written to accompany a Viennese performance of the play in 1920. I particularly like the way this music is delivered with a slight Latin accent, even in the gentle string tunes of Bridal morning (tr. 6). Meanwhile, in the comedy of Dogberry and Verges (tr. 7) Pietro points and phrases the music with delicacy and wit. As for the brief, Cav-like Intermezzo it has a wistful radiance that’s hard to resist, the final Hornpipe buoyed by strong, secure brass playing…This is a delightful disc and a welcome addition to the growing list of Korngold recordings. Quint is not without his rivals in the concerto, but that matters little when he plays so seductively throughout. And don’t overlook Carlos Miguel Pietro and the Orquesta Sinfónica de Mineria, who bring so much warmth and high spirits to these scores. Nice one, Naxos.

Jessica Duchen
BBC Music Magazine, October 2009

Philippe Quint, Russian-born and Juilliard-trained, is a fast-rising star in the States, and deservedly so: here he’s produced one of the most persuasive and empathetic recordings of the Korngold Violin Concerto in the catalogue. His seductive tone captivates from the first note, his quicksilver virtuosity suits the piece to perfection, and he gives the work precisely the shaded, bittersweet magic it deserves. This isn’t as much a ‘Hollywood concerto’ as its reputation suggests—Korngold sketched the gorgeous opening melody as a concerto idea years before he crossed the Atlantic, and simply recycled it for the movie score Another Dawn. It is full of very central-European sehnsucht and one senses Quint identifies deeply with this, responding to the rapidly-shifting chromatic nuances as if thinking its colours aloud, often with more depth and spontaneity than the slick Nikolaj Znaider, whose recording with the Vienna Philharmonic and Valery Gergiev is around 90 per cent Californian sunshine. The Naxos disc is well worth hearing for Quint’s passionately committed performance.

The Strad, September 2009


Although released at the same time as Nikolai Znaider’s high-powered coupling of Korngold’s Hollywood-imbued violin Concerto with the Brahms, Philippe Quint’s account is more than just a budget-priced also-ran. From the gentle portamentos of his opening phrases, he sounds completely inside the music, which means he can indulge in a fair degree of rubato, a flexibility of rhythm and movement that is fully in keeping with the style. His tone is sweet but not cloyingly so, and he finds just the right colouring for the big Romantic melodies; he also displays nimbleness in the race towards the finish in the concerto’s Finale. Quint is ideally centred in the sound picture…Mexican orchestra—has plenty of bite and colour…it brings enthusiasm to the precocious Schauspiel Overture and some nippy playing to the incidental music to Much Ado About Nothing.

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, September 2009

The Mexican orchestra play with brilliance and confidence and the excellent recording lays bare the marvellous orchestration, which we recognize from Korngold’s supreme film scores. This concerto in particular has close connections to the Warner Bros years, since Korngold has recycled themes from three of his foremost film scores.

The Overture to a Drama, Op. 4, written when the composer was still wearing short trousers, is a remarkable piece. The thematic work is mature and the orchestration, especially bearing in mind that this was his first independent orchestral composition, is so sure-footed. Not as lush as his scoring was to become a few years later there are still more than traces of the superb film music composer-to-be.

[In t]he suite from the incidental music to Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (the German title is ‘Viel Lärm um nichts’)…[it] is remarkable how many ravishing colours he conjures forth with the rather limited instrumental forces available. The ensemble includes harmonium as well as piano, cleverly incorporated in the fabric. The complete incidental music comprised fourteen numbers but Korngold compiled the suite Op. 11 and performed it in January 1920, several months before the premiere of the play at the Schönbrunn Palace Theatre. He also arranged the music for various chamber music constellations since he knew beforehand that the full ensemble of musicians wouldn’t be available all the time during the run of the play. The five movements of the suite are entertaining and atmospheric. The overture chats light-heartedly; Bridal Morning is rather melancholy—she has obviously second thoughts; Dogberry and Verges depicts the drunken nightwatchmen; the Intermezzo with cello and piano alone to begin with, is conceived almost as a modern pop-ballad; and the Hornpipe is a jolly finale. It is interesting to note that Carlos Miguel Prieto and Willy Mattes choose almost identical tempos throughout, and having learnt this music through the Mattes recording Prieto seems fully idiomatic…Admirers of Philippe Quint will no doubt find a lot to enjoy on this latest Naxos disc and the ‘fillers’ are worthy additions to the ever-growing Korngold discography.

Edward Greenfield
Gramophone, August 2009

Korngold’s lush, lyrical concerto in a subtle and compelling performance

Philippe Quint has already made a sequence of fine concerto recordings for Naxos: William Schuman, Rózsa and Rorem, as well as John Corigliano’s Red Violin Caprices and Bernstein’s Serenade. Here he caps that achievement with this outstanding version of Korngold’s Violin Concerto, his most popular work.

The Concerto is based on themes from his film music—Another Dawn in the first movement, Anthony Adverse in the second and The Prince and the Pauper in the brilliant finale. The writing as a result is easily lyrical, making this a work that rivals the Barber Concerto from the same period. Though written for Bronislaw Huberman, it was given its first performance by Jascha Heifetz, who also recorded it. Quint’s performance rivals even Heifetz. His range of tone is subtle in its extreme contrasts, his phrasing is warmly expressive without ever tipping over into sentimentality or self-indulgence, and his sparkling performance of the finale matches his achievement in the lyrical movements.

Written during his mid-teens, the Overture to a Drama is an astonishing example of Korngold’s precocity: it was given its first performance by Arthur Nikisch and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, no less. The Much Ado incidental music was written for a production in 1918, before Korngold had to flee to America from the Nazis. He first of all made an arrangement of selected scenes for violin and piano, later orchestrating them in the version recorded here. The music is easily lyrical, and points forward to the style of Korngold’s film music.

Not only does Quint give a masterly performance but equally compelling is the playing of the Mexican orchestra under Carlos Miguel Prieto, another rising young star. Not least remarkable is the balance of the orchestra by the engineers, who ensure that every line is clearly heard, even in the biggest tuttis. A splendid bargain, and although the price is vastly different, this Naxos issue is in every way a formidable rival to the new RCA version with Nikolaj Znaider.

Julian Haylock
Classic FM, August 2009

Quint’s fine series of recordings for Naxos continues with a glowing account of Korngold glorious Violin Concerto, which…is richly enjoyable on its own terms. He negotiates the finale’s acrobatic hurdles with virtuoso aplomb and shapes the slow movement main melody with a loving sensitivity to melt even the sternest disposition. Prieto and the Mineria Symphony provide sterling support and then give ripely affectionate readings of two colourful and highly engaging scores from Korngold’s wunderkind years.

Kevin Sutton
MusicWeb International, July 2009

Erich Wolfgang Korngold was a Viennese boy wonder who was admired by Strauss and was expected to be the next great European Musical Genius when his early works appeared in the first decade of the twentieth century. Alas, politics and the havoc wreaked upon the continent by Hitler and the Nazis changed the course of his life, eventually landing him in Hollywood and a respected career as a film composer. Now famous for having essentially invented the “swashbuckling” film score, it has taken a few decades for Korngold’s substantial output of concert music to make a comeback. Fortunately, interest in these works has revived and none is more popular than the tuneful Violin Concerto of 1945, inspired by Bronislav Hubermann, but given its first performance by Jascha Heifetz.

Like the string quartets of Ravel and Debussy, Korngold’s violin concerto is often paired on recordings with Samuel Barber’s equally lush concerto. We have the happy fortune here of hearing a couple of Korngold’s purely orchestral works. The concerto however is the center-piece, and although it is given a satisfactory performance by Philippe Quint, he stands against some serious competition. Chock full of Hollywood movie themes, this is still a substantial work, and requires a great deal of thought on the part of the soloist to keep it from sounding merely showy.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, the Overture to a Drama was the first work that the teenaged composer orchestrated without assistance. It was given its first performance by the Gewandhaus Orchestra under no less a luminary that Artur Nikisch. Although the influence of Strauss is obvious, particularly in the charming use of three-quarter time, there is much that is original and it is understandable that musicians of the day saw such great potential in the young composer. Carlos Miguel Prieto leads a taut performance, elegantly shaped and balanced. Special mention goes to the horn section of the Mineria orchestra for their potent yet never overpowering playing.

The incidental music to Much Ado about Nothing was composed for a 1920 production of the play in Vienna. Knowing that the orchestra’s musicians would not be available for the full run of the play, Korngold arranged the score for violin and piano, an adaptation that has won more favor than the original orchestral version. Marked by wonderfully clever orchestration, with deft use of the piano and the harmonium, Korngold makes extremely creative use of a modest yet diverse cadre of instruments. Although each of the movements is brief, there is much delightful music squeezed in, and Maestro Prieto gives us a perfectly paced performance…

James Manishen
Winnipeg Free Press, July 2009

Erich Korngold always worried about being typecast as a film composer, having written arguably the best film score ever for The Adventures of Robin Hood, plus equally memorable music for other Warner classics. His concern is largely mitigated today with the many performances and recordings of the arch-Romantic Violin Concerto, a late work but still rooted in the soundtrack form and a huge crowd-pleaser. Philippe Quint really delivers here, pouring out plenty of seductive tone and flying through the acrobatics with ease…Korngold was a brilliant child prodigy, the level of Mozart at similar age. Korngold’s Overture to a Drama may have thin material, but the 14-year-old composer shows stunning skills at orchestration and it is fascinating to envision what lay ahead while listening. Much Ado About Nothing is a fine romp, here in a capable if slightly tame reading.

L. Ackerman ‘CD Explorer’, July 2009

It is a marvellous concerto, and it makes your heart melt as most of Korngold music does: melodically and harmonically. This recording is a blockbuster! Quint is spectacular (what pure tone!), the Mexican orchestra is first class (as is its conductor) and the recording is to die for: amazing sound! And all this at NAXOS price. Wow!

Jeff Hall
ScreenSounds, July 2009

Curious perhaps, when the classical music Establishment and followers have so often looked down on composers who have chosen to write for film; especially as the work in question is drawn from the great Austrian composer’s screen works, albeit largely lesser acclaimed ones than his biggies like The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, King’s Row et al.

Fact is though, it’s a thoroughly entertaining work in three movements. The opening “Moderato Nobile” features melodies from 1937’s Another Dawn and 1939’s Juarez; whilst “Romance: Andante” features a theme from 1936’s Anthony Adverse. The third movement, “Finale: Allegro Assai Vivace” is particularly appealing and takes some playing, presenting as it does, a lively theme from 1937’s The Prince and the Pauper, a score that has recently enjoyed a sparkling new and complete recording on the Tribute Film Classics label.

Featured soloist on this recording of the Concerto is St Petersburg-born Philippe Quint, with Carlos Miguel Prieto conducting the Orquesta Sinfonica de Mineria, who also perform the other pieces on the disc: Overture to a Drama, Op.4, written by the teenaged Korngold in 1911; and 1918’s Much Ado About Nothing, an early dramatic outing for the composer, written for a production of the Shakespeare play, first performed at Vienna’s Schonbrunn Castle two years later.

Accompanying the disc are Richard Whitehouse’s notes on both the composer and the works presented, as well as short bios of the soloist, conductor and orchestra.

Nigel Simeone
International Record Review, July 2009

A gritty, intense and dramatic reading of the Korngold Concerto. Quint is a player who compels attention, producing music-making of urgent commitment combined with technical mastery…He is a soloist who doesn’t only relish the work’s lush late romanticism but also brings out its rhythmic drive and energy as few others have. His partners in this excellent performance are the Mexican Orchestra Sinfonica de Mineria, conducted by Carlos Miguel Prieto—an admirable ensemble which delivers playing of precision and enthusiasm…I urge you to hear this disc—at super-budget price, it’s an excellent bargain.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2009

Written in that period when Erich Korngold tried to reignite his career as a symphonic composer, the Violin Concerto today stands as his only work in the concert repertoire. The establishment’s dislike of the precocious young Austrian genius that sold himself for pieces of gold to the Hollywood film industry is well documented. It was unforgiving and spurned reconciliation that he attempted in the late 1940’s. The concerto, however, had Jascha Heifetz as its champion, his recording still the work’s benchmark and also one of his personal highlights. In fact it was a pastiche work based on film music he had written, and is rather sentimental in the romantic mood of the slow movement, the finale a virtuoso romp in the mood of Americana for its finale, the conclusion coming from the big wide screen. But I love it, and probably have every version ever recorded, including that well received Naxos version from Vera Tsu. Here we have the St Petersburg-born, Philippe Quint, his previous recordings showing a violinist of uncommon brilliance. He provides as much sugar and cream as the work can take, using a big and warm vibrato for the slow movement, and dancing happily through the finale. The two remaining works come from Korngold’s young days with a suite from the 1918 incidental music for Shakespeare’s play Much Ado about Nothing, and the Overture to a Drama  that was finished in his fourteenth year. Never having heard of Mexico’s Orquesta Sinfonica de Mineria and their conductor, Carlos Miguel Prieto, I was delighted to discover an ensemble of real quality that has been well recorded.

David Hurwitz, June 2009

Philippe Quint turns in one of the most appealing, least “sticky” performances of Korngold’s Violin Concerto yet recorded. If you usually find the piece too kitschy, then you really need to hear this. Like Heifetz, Quint adopts generally swift tempos, and this pays huge dividends in the opening movement—too often the piece sounds like it features two slow movements in a row. Here there is urgency along with passion, and a wonderful lightness in passagework that sustains the melodic thread even in the sections containing multiple stopping—and there are a lot of them. Quint’s effortless technique also permits him to find all of the puckish humor in the finale. The tunes come from Korngold’s film score to The Prince and the Pauper, after all.

A good bit of the credit for the success of this performance must go to conductor Carlos Prieto and his Mexican orchestra. It doesn’t sound like a large ensemble, and that’s all to the good. Korngold’s orchestration doesn’t need to be drowned in strings: it benefits greatly from the transparency on display here, both in terms of balance in the Violin Concerto and also in the Schauspiel Overture. Korngold was only 14 when he wrote the overture, and it’s a fully mature and very enjoyable piece in its own right. The adorable suite from Much Ado About Nothing has plenty of charm, and some good horn playing in the finale. A slightly over-prominent, wheezy harmonium in the suite represents the only strike against this otherwise well-engineered production. Definitely recommended.

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