A couple of nights ago, I was browsing around in the television listings and ran across the always irresistable Casablanca. I'm not really a hard-core old movie fan, but I do like Golden Era Hollywood stuff enough to set aside a couple of hours when I run across something special. And a lot of times that something special is greatly enhanced by a soundtrack by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.
Korngold spent his early years in the incredibly rich musical environment of early 20th century Vienna, where he was quickly recognized as a musical prodigy. Like the rest of European civilization, his life took a completely unforeseen trajectory, eventually finding himself one of Hollywood's great film composers. He never left behind a desire to be a composer for the concert stage, though, and in the 1930's he drew on his film work to create his Violin Concerto. It's one of the great pieces of its type, and even though it was premiered in 1947, it's solidly (and beautifully!) Romantic in its language and aspect. If you love historic, golden era Hollywood films, here's a quick rundown of the themes he used from his film soundtracks:
The first movement first uses a theme from Another Dawn, from 1937, and then goes to music from Juarez, a film released in 1939.
The second movement is built on a theme from Anthony Adverse, from 1936, and the final movement takes its theme from The Prince and the Pauper, released in 1937.
This afternoon, you can hear Nikolaj Znaider as the soloist in this gorgeous piece.
Znaider, who will be a guest soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for our Dec. 4 broadcast, is a musician with real affinity for the Romantic, which you can hear in this performance and conversation from our Fraser Performance Studio:
(photo: Matthias Creutziger)