Erich Wolfgang Korngold Biography

29 May 1897, Brno (Brunn), Czechoslovakia, d. 29 November 1957, Hollywood, California, USA. An important composer, conductor and arranger for films, from the mid-30s into the 50s. Korngold was a child prodigy, and, in his teens, wrote short operas, such as The Ring Of Polycrates and Violant. He performed as a pianist in concerts, and was the resident conductor at the Hamburg Opera House for several years. He also re-scored vintage operetta classics, giving them a new lease of life. During the 20s, his own operatic compositions, including Die Tote Stadt (The Dead City), and The Miracle Of Heliane, played European opera houses, and his enormous popularity on that continent led him to move to the USA in 1934, where he subsequently became an American citizen in 1943. In 1935, he worked on the first of a series of films for Warner Brothers Studio, when he adapted Mendelssohn’s music for the highly regarded film A Midsummer Night’s Dream, starring Dick Powell and James Cagney. In the same year, he composed the score for Captain Blood, the movie that made Errol Flynn a star. Such was his prestige, Korngold was able to pick and choose which movies he cared to work on. During the 30s, his film scores included Give Us This Night, Anthony Adverse, for which Korngold won his first Academy Award (1936), The Green Pastures, The Prince And The Pauper, Another Dawn, Of Human Bondage, The Adventure Of Robin Hood, (another Oscar for Korngold), Juarez and The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex. In 1940, Korngold composed some of his most stirring music for Sea Hawk, his last for an historical adventure, and was nominated for another Academy Award. His other scores during the 40s included Sea Wolf, King’s Row, The Constant Nymph, Between Two Worlds, Devotion, Deception andEscape Me Never (1947). In 1944, he conducted and adapted Offenbach’s music for the Broadway show, Helen Goes To Troy, and added a few things of his own. In the late 40s, Korngold became disenamoured with movies, and turned again to classical composing. These included ‘Piano Sonata In E’, ‘Violin Concerto In D’, ‘Piano Trio’, and ‘Piano Concerto For The Left Hand’, and the opera, Die Kathrin, which flopped in Vienna in 1950. He returned to films in 1955 with his score for the ‘uninspired’ Richard Wagner bio-pic, The Magic Fire, but died two years later in 1957. In spite of his relatively small output, he is still regarded as the leader of his craft. Recordings include: Elizabeth And Essex and The Sea Hawk, both played by the National Philharmonic Orchestra, and Music Of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, conducted by Lionel Newman.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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