On today’s date in 1910, a young Austrian composer had his first major work staged as a ballet-pantomime at the Vienna Court Opera. It was quite a prestigious affair, all in all, with the Vienna Philharmonic in the pit and none other than Franz Josef, the Austrian Emperor, in the audience.
All that was enough to go to any young composer’s head—and the composer in question, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, was very young indeed. He was just 13 when his ballet-pantomime entitled “The Snowman” premiered in Vienna.
Actually, he had written the piano version of “The Snowman” back in 1908, when he was all of 11. Korngold’s teacher, the composer Alexander von Zemlinsky, orchestrated the piece for the Vienna Court Opera performance, but it wasn’t very long before little Erich was preparing his own orchestrations, thank you very much.
By his 20s, Korngold was a celebrated through Europe as composer of operas and concert hall works. Korngold settled in Hollywood in the 1930s, as his Jewish heritage made a career in Nazi Europe impossible. His film scores for classic Errol Flynn adventure movies—“SVASH-booo-klers” as Korngold called them in his thick Viennese accent—made him famous in America.
During the final decade of his life, Korngold again devoted his attention to concert works, such as this Violin Concerto from 1947, composed for Jascha Heifetz, which recycled some his movie themes into a popular showpiece for a virtuoso performer.
Korngold died in Hollywood in 1957.
Music Played in Today's Program
Erich Wolfgang von Korngold (1897 – 1957)The SnowmanNorthwest German Philharmonic; Werner Andreas Albert, cond.CPO 999 037
Erich Wolfgang von Korngold (1897 – 1957)Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35Chantal Juillet, violin; Berlin Radio Symphony; John Mauceri, cond.London 452 481