The son of a distinguished music critic, Erich Wolfgang Korngold is chiefly known as one of the greatest composers of Hollywood film scores; a man whose score for the 1938 Swashbuckler film The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn, ‘saved his life’. For his first 40 years, however, he wrote music for the concert hall, and even after he had ‘sold his soul to the film studios’ Korngold continued to write late-Romantic art music, his Violin Concerto marking a significant return to this genre in 1945. The music is wholly characteristic of the composer’s mature style: expansive, opulent and memorably melodic. The orchestration, too, is abundantly colourful and sensitive, with the virtuosity of the violin part coming to the fore particularly in the last movement. In the programme for the work’s premiere, Korngold wrote: “[the work] … was contemplated rather for a Caruso of the violin than for a Paganini … how delighted I am to have my concerto performed by Caruso and Paganini in one person: Jascha Heifetz”.
The Violin Sonata predates the Concerto by about 30 years; completed when Korngold was just 16 years old, it refers to the later work in a number of ways, most notably through the composer’s penchant for wide intervals and the use of several of the themes which reveal Korngold’s precocious craftsmanship and use of organic unity. Its inclusion on this release equates to a deft piece of programming, given that the work is in many ways the perfect companion piece to the Concerto.
Violinist Kristóf Baráti is no stranger to Brilliant Classics, having appeared on no less than five recordings thus far. Following the release of his disc of Ysaÿe’s Sonatas (BC94678), Fanfare acknowledged his “blazing technique” and “brilliant tone”. As one of the most talented violinists of his generation, he has performed with the world’s major orchestras and collaborated alongside many esteemed conductors. He plays a 1703 Stradivari violin, the ‘Lady Harmsworth’, kindly loaned by the Stradivari Society. On this release Baráti is joined by players from the philharmonie zuidnederland under Otto Tausk, with Gábor Farkas at the piano.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold was a child prodigy (his musical talent was compared to that of the young Mozart). His early works are written in the tradition of Mahler and Richard Strauss, later he emigrated to America and became one of Hollywood’s most successful film music composers.
Korngold’s Violin Concerto is a fascinating and eclectic showpiece, exquisite Mahlerian harmonies alternate with Hollywood sentiment, the violin indulging in soaring melodies and exuberant virtuosic display. The Violin Sonata was written 30 years before the concerto, the 16-year old composer firmly rooted in Late Romantic hyper activity and expression.
A stunning new recording by young Hungarian violinist Kristóf Baráti, who already recorded extensively for Brilliant Classics: Complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas (BC94310) and Brahms Violin Sonatas (BC94824) with pianist Klára Würtz, the Ysaye Solo Sonatas (BC94678), the Bach Sonatas & Partitas (BC94667) and Paganini’s Violin Concertos 1 and 2 (BC94803).
• Recorded in 2014.
• Booklet includes liner notes and artist biographies.