Erich Wolfgang Korngold

About Erich Wolfgang Korngold

Few composers have had such a meteoric rise as Erich Wolfgang Korngold. He was born in Brünn (now Brno in the Czech Republic) in 1897, the son of influential Viennese music critic Julius Korngold. Aged nine, his piano playing attracted the attention of Mahler, and he won national acclaim with an operatic double bill when he was barely 20. The premiere of his opera Die tote Stadt (“The Dead City,” 1920) simultaneously in Cologne and Hamburg brought him international fame, but his music’s sumptuous Romanticism was increasingly at odds with the political volatility of Europe between the wars. Korngold took advantage of an association with Warner Brothers to work on the other side of the Atlantic. He spent 12 years writing music for 16 Hollywood movies whose symphonic expansiveness and emotional immediacy redefined just what was possible in a film score. Having taken American citizenship in 1943, he returned to Europe after the Second World War, but found the musical climate unfavorable and spent his remaining years mostly in the U.S. His Violin Concerto in D major was well received at its premiere by Jascha Heifetz in 1947, and has more recently entered the repertoire, but his only completed symphony met with a cool reception when heard on Austrian radio in 1952, and was not given in concert until after Korngold’s death in Los Angeles in 1957. His orchestral music and operas are now being heard regularly, their melodic richness attracting successive generations of listeners.

Brno, Czech Republic
May 29, 1897
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