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Austrian‒Hungarian, from 1943 American, composer, conductor, and pianist.

Career Summary

Son of leading Viennese music critic Julius Korngold, Erich Wolfgang Korngold was identified at the age of six as a remarkable musical talent. In 1907 he began the study of composition with Robert Fuchs, but in 1909 the latter withdrew upon recognizing the modern tendencies in the boy's music and, on the recommendation of Gustav Mahler (who deemed the boy a "musical genius"), Korngold embarked on composition study with Alexander von Zemlinsky, and from 1911 continued studies with Hermann Grädener, Ferdinand Löwe, and others. His pantomime Der Schneemann (1908), performed in Vienna in 1910 and published by Universal Edition, caused a sensation and, orchestrated by Zemlinsky, was performed at the Vienna Opera later that year. His Piano Sonata No. 2 in E major (1910) was played throughout Europe by Artur Schnabel. After a string of successes, his third opera Die tote Stadt (1920) was hailed internationally after its dual premiere in Hamburg and Köln. A further opera followed in 1927, alongside orchestral, chamber, and solo piano works, and solo songs. In 1927 he was appointed to a professorial position at the Vienna Academy for Music and Performing Arts.

In 1934, at the encouragement of Max Reinhardt, he emigrated to the USA, where he wrote scores for sixteen films between 1936 and 1946, winning two Oscars, and contributing to the establishment of the "Hollywood sound," while also continuing to produce and perform orchestral, chamber, and vocal works.

Korngold and Schenker

There was no known contact between the two men. Schenker attended concerts with works by Korngold, and later heard his music by the radio. In his diary he occasionally expressed his views on Korngold's work. Of the Piano Quintet he remarked "unusual striving after special timbral effects, deliberate simplicity, a constant fluctuation that betrays not only lack of talent but also significant dishonesty, despite youth. Undeniably a certain fluency, which unfortunately only benefits the triviality; the case is hopeless." (March 1, 1923). Of the Entr'acte from the opera Das Wunder der Heliane, he remarked, "makes frightening efforts at – non-music!" (November 10, 1927).

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  • Ian Bent

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Correspondence

Diaries

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