Korngold: Complete Incidental Music / Mammel. Simon, Holst-Sinfonietta
Korngold’s greatest critical successes lay in the field of opera and in his film scores. The early sets of incidental music reflect these two elements, sharing the theatrical bravura of opera and anticipating his own later filmic techniques. The music for the Viennese production of Shakespeare’s much Ado About Nothing in 1920, heard here in full, is expressive and dramatic. Der Vampir, a psychological study of desire, seduction and greed, is rarely heard, but remains a potent example of Korngold’s instinct for directness of characterization.
“[It's] a pleasant surprise to be confronted with something completely unfamiliar…The Holst Sinfonietta performs these waltzes, flourishes and scarps of underscoring with considerable color and Schwung." -Gramophone
This disc reaffirms – as if such proof were still necessary – just what a prodigious genius the young Erich Wolfgang Korngold was. The complete incidental music for Korngold’s score to Much Ado About Nothing runs to nearly fifty minutes of music brimming over with pointed musical characterisation, subtle scene-setting and gorgeous melody – all written before his twenty first birthday.
The playing of his Holst-Sinfonietta is uniformly excellent and the engineering manages to find a really effective balance between all the disparate instruments. Time and again I marvelled at the genius of Korngold’s lushly economical scoring.
A further attraction of this new disc for the Korngold completeist collector is the presence of the world premiere recording of his score to accompany Der Vampir oder Die Gejagten The Vampire or The Hunted). Written just three years later this is a fascinating score in the almost expressionist way the music instantly illuminates and comments on the drama.
The issue for the listener – especially the non-German speaking ones – is that the bulk of the music is underscoring dialogue. In this instance Cornelius Bauer (who also contributes the useful liner note) and conductor Klaus Simon have produced a concert version where a narrator explains the plot as well as performing a number of roles. Here Ekkehard Abele is the suitably dramatic narrator/voice. However, due to copyright issues the liner cannot reproduce any of the texts for the work. This is compounded by the fact that the liner briefly outlines the convoluted plot but gives no actual synopsis and no indication of which track/cue fits what part of the plot. Furthermore, it would appear that some of Korngold’s music has been lost. The score as it currently exists ends with an extended dream sequence but there are two more acts in the original play which include indications of further music cues. So what we have here is an attenuated arrangement of an incomplete score in an [potentially] unfamiliar language.
None of which sounds too enticing but this is where Korngold’s especial genius shines through. The instrumentation of Der Vampir is even smaller than Much Ado. Here he uses just flute, violin, cello, harp, piano and percussion as well as a Greek-style spoken chorus for the aforementioned dream-sequence. None of the music cues are anything like as extensive or self-contained either but goodness me they are effective. The playing here is every bit as skilled and apt as in the main work but this will remain very much an appendix to the main body of Korngold’s work.
The main value of this disc is the complete recording of Much Ado About Nothing which is immensely enjoyable. Der Vampir is valuable as a first recording and in the way it illustrates the range of Korngold’s skill especially at such a young age. The only real mystery is why such a valuable recording has sat in the Naxos vaults for nearly eight years.
-- MusicWeb International (Nick Bernard)
Release Date: February 11, 2022
Catalog Number: 8573355
Label: Naxos Regular CD
Number of Discs: 1
Composer: Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Conductor: Klaus Simon
Performer: Hans Jörg Mammel