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Two American musicologists assemble a collection of articles by diverse hands defending the Austrian-born Korngold from his longtime reputation as creator of loud, kitschy soundtracks for Hollywood movies starring Errol Flynn, what one writer here terms an ‘unbroken record of [critical] condescension and disregard.’

Coinciding with a Bard Music Festival in New York paying homage to his music, Korngold and His World includes a chapter stressing that although the composer’s father Julius Korngold was a noted music critic in Vienna, they had no Kafkaesque father-son conflict. Instead, Korngold père et fils co- wrote the libretto of the latter’s opera The Dead City (Die tote Stadt, 1919). This was followed by The Miracle of Heliane (Das Wunder der Heliane, 1927).

Praised in his youth by musicians as diverse as Zemlinsky, Mahler, Strauss and Puccini, Korngold survived the war years by working at the Warner Brothers studio, but something had declined from the time Lotte Lehmann and Richard Tauber recorded the Marietta’s Lied duet from Die tote Stadt in 1924. This collection helps measure the toll that exile and historical tragedy took on this onetime prodigy’s creativity.

Benjamin Ivry Read the full review on Agora Classica


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