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This is the story of Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957), who bridged the worlds of serious music, operetta and film scores. The son of Vienna's most powerful turn-of-the-century music critic, he achieved legendary status as a child-prodigy composer with the operas Violanta and Die Tote Stadt. Pressures of adult life steered him into arranging the operettas of Johann Strauss, his contemporaries and then Hollywood. Korngold became a highly regarded composer of incidental music for films such as Sea Hawk and The Adventures of Robin Hood. He ignored the changing tides of musical fashion, and continued to write in his own romantic idiom, creating scores which establish him - within the film-music genres - as one of this century's most influential composers. This study offers a reappraisal of his life and works. The 20th century has seen the triumphal progression of an avant-garde aesthetic in virtually every field of art: theater, painting, and even music. But what of those artists who don't toe the fashionable line? Erich Wolfgang Korngold, like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was a child prodigy. Also like Mozart, he had a domineering father. Julius Korngold was a musical archconservative and he carefully guided the genius of his second son into respectable forms of musical expression, even while others began experimenting with serialism and jazz.
When their native Austria was incorporated into the Third Reich, the Korngolds wisely took up residence in America, where Erich earned a comfortable living scoring music for Hollywood blockbusters. Korngold was a perfectionist with an almost operatic approach to his film work, but his tonal proclivities and work in popular music ruined his status as a serious musician--at least in the eyes of the musical establishment. The last few years have seen a rise in Korngold's popularity among America's musical movers and shakers, and a new appreciation for his work, cinematic and otherwise, has developed. Jessica Duchen's well-considered discussion of the life and work of this intriguing man should continue the much-needed rehabilitation of the long-embattled tonal composers of this century.
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