Although Korngold’s ‘complete works for violin and piano’ make up a reasonably full disc, it is only fair to point out that the Violin Sonata is the single work that is not an arrangement from one of his other pieces. Yet this Sonata, written at the age of 15 for Carl Flesch and Artur Schnabel no less, is a fine example of his early style, with its echoes of Zemlinsky and early Schoenberg. The young Dutch violinist Sonja van Beek and German pianist Andreas Frölich negotiate its challenges with ease: as in Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata, the pianist has as tough a role as the melody instrument. Much Ado about Nothing is one of several arrangements of a suite of four movements derived from incidental music to Shakespeare’s play written in 1918, performed here with affection and a silken suavity. The remainder of the repertoire is made up of arrangements of Korngold lollipops, hit numbers from his operas, such as the unforgettable ‘Marietta’s Lied’ from Die tote Stadt, arranged by the composer as salon pieces and popularised by Kreisler and his ilk.
Although he is fondly remembered for his many exemplary film scores composed during the Second World War, Korngold's more "serious" concerto works – particularly those written after the war – are becoming increasingly well-respected and widely performed. Chief among those works gaining tremendous popularity is his violin concerto. Hints of the sweep and grandeur of the film genre can still be heard in the concerto, but never to the point where Korngold's music sounds trite or unpolished. Rather, Korngold casts the violin in a decidedly Romantic style while still managing to include snippets of previous film scores, making for an easily accessible listening experience. Contrasting sharply with Korngold's increasing popularity is Lithuanian composer Balys Dvarionas.
»This recording is a true marvel!« ~Fanfare
Both concertos on this new disc were written when their composers were in the USA around the time of World War II: the Korngold was completed in 1945, the Britten in 1939. In the course of the 1930s Korngold, an Austrian Jew, had become a prominent Hollywood composer, but could not return to his homeland after 1938; the young Britten, a pacifist, left the UK for New York shortly before the declaration of war in 1939. Both composers had been child prodigies and both concertos are centred around the key of D, the most ‘natural’ key on the violin and the tonal focus for the violin concertos of Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky
The Symphony receives a particularly warm and beautiful interpretation. DePreist has a sympathetic feeling for contrasts of textures; the tempi are excellently judged and atmospheres powerful, with a vigorous sense of energy, tension and release. The Sea Hawk, though, is allowed to wallow. Particular poignancy is added through the presence of Korngold’s granddaughter Kathrin as a violinist member of the orchestra.