Korngold: Symphony, Tanzchen Im Alten Stil / Storgards, Helsinki Symphony

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REVIEW:Korngold’s lushly scored Symphony in F?, completed in 1952, has been well, if belatedly, served on disc. The first recording appeared only in 1972, with...


Korngold’s lushly scored Symphony in F?, completed in 1952, has been well, if belatedly, served on disc. The first recording appeared only in 1972, with Rudolf Kempe conducting the Munich Philharmonic. Since then there have been seven additional recordings that I know of. The Philadelphia performance led by Franz Welser-Möst is absolutely stunning in both its orchestral virtuosity and its magnificent sound. I have read glowing reports about, though not heard, the recently released Albrecht/Strasbourg Philharmonic performance, and there are also releases from big names like André Previn, Edward Downes, and James DePreist. Can the Helsinki Philharmonic compete with these? Definitely.

The Philharmonic acquits itself splendidly, particularly its horn section, which delivers astounding displays of unison virtuosity in the first movement. The second movement is a virtuoso romp for the full orchestra. Storgårds keeps the pace lively and the playing crystal-clear despite the complex and often dense orchestration in this movement. There is not even a suggestion of labor involved. The Adagio, the symphony’s emotional core, is a darkly hued quarter-hour of inexorable symphonic growth, which Storgårds brings to a towering climax that will lift you out of your seat. The finale is the weakest of the symphony’s four movements, yet nevertheless blazes with thrills from the Helsinki musicians. Ondine’s recorded sound adds another layer of visceral excitement, sound remarkable for both its textural clarity and its depth—a winning combination. In short, this performance ranks with the best of them.

As a bonus, the disc also contains the world premiere recording of Korngold’s Dance in the Old Style for small orchestra, composed in or about 1919 but never published and possibly never performed until 2007, when Storgårds conducted it at the Jyväskylä Festival in Finland. Brendan Carroll barely mentions it in a footnote in his 1997 biography The Last Prodigy . Richard Whitehouse’s otherwise comprehensive and detailed program notes to this release do not explain how or where it suddenly turned up. The seven-minute piece is pleasant enough but hardly top-drawer Korngold. Nevertheless, it will certainly be of interest to all fans of this composer.

-- Fanfare: Robert Markow

Product Description:

  • Release Date: April 26, 2011

  • UPC: 761195118221

  • Catalog Number: ODE 1182-2

  • Label: Ondine

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Erich Wolfgang Korngold

  • Conductor: John Storgårds

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

  • Performer: Storgards