LABELS: Decca Entartete Musik
WORKS: Judgement Day; Symphonic Serenade; Theme and Variations
PERFORMER: Alexander Frey (piano) Deutsches SO Berlin, Berlin RSO/John Mauceri
CATALOGUE NO: 444 170-2
Decca’s fascinating Entartete Musik series has produced many gems already, and here are two more, both focusing on the much misunderstood genius of Erich Wolfgang Korngold. All the works of his on these discs actually post-date the ‘entartete’ idea, having been written after the composer moved to Hollywood, but they are no less interesting for that. Particularly striking is the contrast between Korngold’s Violin Concerto and the works in that genre of his contemporaries Weill and Krenek – idiosyncratic and characterful pieces both, and more typical of their time (the two latter concertos were written in the mid-Twenties, while Korngold’s is from the late Forties). Beside their earnest counterpoint, Korngold’s concerto emerges as courageously gorgeous. Chantal Juillet is the soloist, negotiating the concertos’ various complexities with intelligence and eloquence. She gives a less heart-on-sleeve rendering of the Korngold than, for instance, Perlman or Shaham. Korngold can suffer from the excessive sweetness that some interpreters are tempted to give him, but Juillet brings out the edge of acidity that has eluded others.
Decca’s new all-Korngold disc is most interesting for its reconstruction of a large proportion of Korngold’s Between Two Worlds, his own favourite among his film scores. Mauceri has, with great enterprise and resounding success, condensed the characterful and moving score into a striking half-hour tone poem; it depicts with drama and tenderness the journey of a group of people en route to the afterlife and the judgements meted out to them by a celestial Examiner (played unforgettably in the film by Sidney Greenstreet!). The Serenade is given a warm, luscious interpretation (though Matthias Bamert finds subtler depths to the slow movement in his recent recording on Chandos) and equal sympathy emerges in the charming Theme and Variations, Korngold’s last opus.