Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Monday, November 27

Korngold writes a symphony

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1972, Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Symphony in F-sharp received its first successful concert performance by the Munich Philharmonic led by Rudolf Kempe. A recording was made of the work following their performance, supervised and produced by the composer’s son, George Korngold.

The composer himself had died in 1959, so was not able to enjoy the eventual success of this major work. He completed his Symphony in 1950, and its premiere performance in 1954 as part of an Austrian Radio broadcast had been a disaster. As the composer himself put it: “The performance, which was an execution in every sense of the term, took place under the most unfavorable conditions imaginable, with inadequate rehearsals and an exhausted and overworked orchestra.”

“Nonetheless,” Korngold added hopefully, “there was genuine enthusiasm on the part of those listeners who like a good tune and others rather more progressively inclined.”

Korngold had become an American citizen during the 1940s, and dedicated his Symphony to the memory of America’s wartime President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The postwar European premiere of his Symphony came at a time when shifting tastes in music made such lush late-Romantic music seem hopelessly old-fashioned to many of the “progressively inclined” Korngold mentions. “More corn than gold” was one dismissive appraisal of his style.

With the passage of time, however, Korngold’s “good tunes” seem more and more appealing, and belatedly, his big Symphony in F-sharp has found a place in the concert repertory.

Music Played in Today's Program

Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897 – 1957) Symphony, Op. 40 Philadelphia Orchestra; Franz Welser-Most, cond. EMI 56169

Additional Information

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