Erich Korngold was born in the then-Moravian city of Brno in 1897, but grew up in the influence of Vienna. Labeled a child prodigy, he was proficient at piano by age 6, was composing by age 8, and wrote a ballet (Der Schneemann) at 11. His opera, Die tote Stadt, brought him worldwide recognition at the ripe old age of 23.
Hitler’s advance across Europe in the 1930s interrupted what possibly could have placed the composer in the rarefied atmosphere of international greats. Instead, Korngold ended up a naturalized U.S. citizen having escaped Vienna via the Hollywood film music world, convinced by a contract from Warner Brothers.
Korngold won two Academy Awards for Anthony Adverse and The Adventures of Robin Hood ; other scores included Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk, and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.
After the World War II, Korngold was true to his promise and retired from the Hollywood music world to return to the concert hall, although he remained a resident of the Toluca Lake area near Warner Brothers in Burbank. He completed his Violin Concerto in D Major for a 1947 premier by Jascha Heifetz and the St. Louis Symphony.
The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Gabriel Lefkowitz was the featured soloist in last weekend’s performances of the Korngold concerto. Also on the bill was Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 and Carl Maria von Weber’s Overture to Der Freischütz. My review of the concerts is in this week’s issue of Metro Pulse — online here.