WORKS: Symphony in F sharp, Op. 40; Abschiedslieder, Op. 14
PERFORMER: Linda Finnie (contralto); BBC Philharmonic/Edward Downes
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9171 DDD
Pronounced a musical genius by Mahler at the tender age of ten, Korngold should have become one of our century’s major composers. But by ploughing the furrow of Austro-German late Romanticism at a time when such a style had become virtually moribund, he was sidelined until his gifts were more fully realised in Hollywood. Here, as an exile from Nazi-occupied Europe, he wrote some of the most sumptuous film scores of all time. In recent years Korngold’s reputation has been considerably enhanced by the increasing representation of his output on disc. Certainly this eloquently performed premiere recording of the orchestral version of the 1920 Abschiedslieder (Songs of Farewell) will prove irresistible to those who relish the autumnal colours of Strauss’s Four Last Songs.
The symphony is a much tougher proposition. Written during the composer’s final years in America, the work is imbued with an air of deep personal tragedy that comes to the fore in an extended slow movement of considerable emotional power. Whilst failing to eclipse memories of Rudolf Kempe’s pioneering 1970s interpretation (Varèse-Sarabande), Downes and the BBC Philharmonic give it a wholly committed performance which will surely attract many more converts to this fascinating composer. Erik Levi