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Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Suite: Much Ado About Nothing, Op.11 (1918-1919) [31:29]
Prelude to Act 2 of Die Tote Stadt, Op.12 (1920) [7:26]
Cello Concerto (1946) [12:45]
Interlude from Das Wunder der Heliane, Op.20 (1922-1927) [8:28]
Suite: Straussiana (1953) [5:43]
Zuill Bailey (cello)
Linz Bruckner Orchestra/Caspar Richter
rec. 1999-2003, Bruckner House, Linz, Austria
ALTO ALC1390 [67:05]

Here's a Korngold collection which owes its existence to the contents of some ASV CDs (review ~ review).

The Much Ado music shows the composer at his most relaxed and brilliantly light although his ideas are always fulsomely orchestrated. The whole of the incidental music has been recorded by Toccata but a suite of nine movements of these lush miniatures works well. The way for that was paved, back in the 1970s, by the Willy Mattes collection on EMI Red Line alongside Ulf Hoelscher's reading of the Violin Concerto. Think in terms of Strauss's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme although the solemn solo cello in Intermezzo will have you thinking of the Cello Concerto. As for the Trauermusik movement, it makes a feint in the direction of the gloomiest moments in the composer's film music. The Prelude to Act 2 of Korngold's most successful opera, Die Tote Stadt, dons more serious and tensely morbid apparel.

The 'pocket' Cello Concerto is a dramatically coruscating affair and stands at the other end of the stylistic scale from Much Ado. The music transcends its origins in the film Deception. That said, the cinematic context gave the stormy concerto its first recording on a Charles Gerhardt RCA LP with cellist Francisco Gabarro (SER 5664). It’s a very capable concerto with a well stocked fund of mood-swings. It is no wonder that it has attracted rising, and risen, cellists including Peter Dixon for Chandos, Frederick Zlotkin for Slatkin and the BBC, Julian Steckel for Avi-Music, Wenn-Sinn Yang for Oehms and Jan Vogler for Berlin Classics.

The superheated melodramatic Interlude from Das Wunder der Heliane offers to the flames a libation of accelerant. It can be counted in the same company, in detail-differing ways, as Barber's Scene from Shelley and Flagello's Sea Cliffs. The whole opera has been recorded by Decca and John Mauceri in the Entartete Musik series and very recently by Fabrice Bollon in an as-yet unreviewed set for Naxos.

With an eye to symmetry and the Much Ado suite, the final three tracks are given over to the Straussiana. This is a skilled suite with an elite Viennese bonne-bouche. It's light music par excellence of the sort that Ronald Corp advocated across several volumes from Hyperion (review review).

This Alto disc presents a richly detailed picture of the smaller-scaled Korngold and it's buttressed by James Murray's capable liner essay.

Rob Barnett


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