top of page

Early Korngold Chamber Music

Korngold: Music for Violin, Cello, and Piano Bruno Monteiro, violin. Miguel Rocha, cello. Joao Paulo Santos, piano. Etcetera KTC 1774 Total Time: 77:32 Recording: ***/**** Performance: (*)***/****

In 2022, the performers here explored the fin de siècle music of Chausson and Ysaye. Now they turn their attention to some of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s (1897-1957) earliest pieces which helped raise the awareness of this Austrian child prodigy before he was forced to leave his homeland for Hollywood and a whole new musical direction. Korngold’s work at the turn of the century was in keeping with the sort of ultra-romanticism of composers like Zemlinsky with the massive orchestral styles of Strauss and Mahler. This harmonic language can be heard firmly in place in these early pieces from this new release.

The Trio for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op. 1 (1910), written when he was 13 (!) is a work brimming with hope, excitement, and confidence in his abilities. There are four movements in a mostly traditional format that features an opening sonata-allegro, a scherzo, a meditative larghetto, and a wonderful rondo. One can hear throughout Korngold’s penchant for interesting harmonic shifts and slight forays into experimenting with the improvisational-like opening of the second movement, a flirtation with a waltz in that movement’s center, and an exhilarating coda from the opening movement. The structural foundations of the piece are equally impressive. The work was enthusiastically received at the time with Bruno Walter being among the performers of a Vienna performance in December, 1910.

At sixteen, Korngold completed his lengthy Violin Sonata in G, Op. 6. The piece was premiered by violinist Carl Flesch and pianist Artur Schnabel in Berlin, October, 1913. Among the most demanding works in the literature, it is a sort of capstone for the Romantic era with a symphonic approach to both instruments throughout. The virtuosic requirements make it a daunting piece to tackle to say the least which is equally compounded by its exhaustive length—running to over 40 minutes. The structure parallels that of the trio to a certain extent. There is a balance between a dramatic and a more lyrical thematic idea to pull together the thoughts in the first movement. A variety of rapid scalar figures kicks off the scherzo which bookends and more relaxed trio. Korngold’s penchant for beautiful, lyrical melodies is on display as the “Adagio” opens and his nod to the advanced harmonic styles of Mahler and Strauss can also be heard more clearly with its interesting chromatic shifts. The finale is a sort of theme and variations but not without a sense of wit as the piece bubbles along to end almost mockingly in a simple final chord. Monteiro’s performance works well with an occasional thinner sound at the higher end of the register. Attacks are crisply-handled with the appropriate amount of lyricism not becoming overly sentimental. The music itself can have a semi-improvisatory feel along the way and the sense of that is captured well in this performance. The slow movement stands out best here with beautiful lyrical playing.

Miguel Rocha offers up the beautiful little salon piece, Tanzlied des Pierrot, transcribed for cello and piano from Korngold’s opera, Die Tote Stadt. It is a quite moving performance with warm playing from Rocha.

The performances are all quite committed and impassioned with a real sense of forward energy. Some of the angular writing is brought out well in Monteiro’s hands here with the slides into pitches being a reminder of the stylistic playing of the era when they appear. There is some truly beautiful playing in the trio’s slow movement with both cello and violin matching well interpretatively. The sound is also fine, though the piano feels a bit too recessed at times. The violin and cello feel a bit too forward in Op. 1, which is unfortunate. This does allow the listener to focus on the detail in the string writing there though it impacts a bit of the interplay with this balance perspective. In the sonata, this sometimes becomes a bit more disconcerting as the violin tends to sometimes pop out into the texture oddly in the louder segments from time to time. Some of the more ethereal moments are captured well within the interpretations here and that ultimately wins the day overall.


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page