New Release: KORNGOLD PROJECT (Part 1)

Writing in Driven into Paradise: The Musical Migration from Nazi Germany to the United States (ed. R. Brinkmann and C. Wolff), the musicologist Bryan Gilliam notes that Erich Korngold was in essence ‘twice exiled’. The first instance of exile is obvious: Korngold, like many other Jewish musicians, intellectuals and artists residing in Vienna, fled Nazi persecution after the Anschluss in 1938. Korngold settled in Hollywood, making good of his recently-made reputation as a composer of film music. The neo-Romantic style he had cultivated during the inter-War period was put to good use in the medium of film. However, this style was also the cause of the second exile that Gilliam has in mind. When Korngold returned to Europe after the fall of the Third Reich, he found that his chromatic-tonal style was completely at odds with the anti-Romantic sentiments dominant amongst composers. Korngold would never achieve acclaim in post-War Europe in his lifetime, and his much celebrated early music was soon forgotten. As Gilliam states (p. 228), Korngold “left Austria as a ‘degenerate’ and returned an anachronism”.

The Korngold Project contributes to the rediscovery of this music. This disc features recordings of two of Korngold’s pre-War chamber works. The first, the Piano Trio in D major, op. 1, was written between 1909 and 1910. The second work recorded on this disc is the Suite for Two Violins, Cello, and Piano (left hand), op. 23, written in 1930.

What is remarkable in this recording is the journey the musicians undertook to record the works they so dearly love. They all represent different nationalities and met in South Africa for performances in Africa’s most prominent chamber music festival. Such was the success of their virgin Korngold performances that they vowed to travel the world to complete the Korngold project. And so they embarked on a journey that included rehearsing in Berlin, performing in Oxford and finally concertizing and recording in South Africa. This is not an established group but a meeting of minds linked through the beauty of Erich Korngold’s music.

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