Between Hollywood and Vienna

Once upon a time there was a musician, Viennese by adoption, who from a very early age seemed destined for a brilliant future. He was acclaimed as a genius from his first compositions. His name was Erich Korngold, and not for nothing had his father, a musician, given him the auspicious middle name of Wolfgang. The greatest figures of the day leaned over his cradle: Mahler, Strauss, Zemlinsky, Weingartner, Nikisch. And his initial successes, including two operas, Das Ring des Polycrates and Violanta, had confirmed all the predictions. But being named Wolfgang doesn’t make one a Mozart, and though he lacked neither talent nor ambition, the wellsprings of his genius gradually ran dry. For artistic reasons which were soon accompanied by political ones, the composer sought refuge and work in the United States, and in particular in Hollywood, where he got his second wind writing the marvellous scores that accompanied the handsome Errol Flynn in Robin Hood and the lovely Olivia de Havilland in Captain Blood (or vice versa...).

He cherished the hope of returning to the "classical" scene, and after the end of the war he arranged to return to Vienna with a symphony, serenade and concertos in his luggage. Furtwängler played his part, giving the first performance of the Serenade for strings at the Vienna Philharmonic. But the world had changed, and with it Vienna, and Korngold was never to recover the position which he had once briefly occupied.

We present the programme for this world première — 15 January 1950 —, in facsimile, also available from the "Get the programme" page.

18 May 2018