Korngold: Sinfonietta, Op. 5; Sursum corda, Op. 13

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LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Sinfonietta, Op. 5; Sursum corda, Op. 13
PERFORMER: BBC Philharmonic/Matthias Bamert
Erich Korngold, Vienna’s most famous child prodigy composer since Mozart, was largely dismissed by the musical establishment after 1950 simply because, thanks to Hitler, he had ended up in Hollywood writing film music for Warner Brothers’ blockbusters. His style, which largely formed what we think of today as ‘movie music’, is luscious, lyrical and romantic, full of propulsive dance rhythms, terrific energy and glistening, sensual orchestration.


Here are glorious performances of two of his early orchestral works. The Sinfonietta, written when Korngold was all of 15 years old, is woven around a central ‘Motif of the Cheerful Heart’ (a recurrent feature throughout Korngold’s works). A substantial symphonic work, it is exquisitely orchestrated and crafted with an idiosyncrasy of harmony and rhythmic manipulation which marks its boyish creator out as an artist with a voice all of his own.


The symphonic overture Sursum corda is a more problematic piece; Korngold took the great symphonic poems of Richard Strauss as models, but found himself faced with his first ever flop at the age of 22. He later drew upon it, however, for his score for The Adventures of Robin Hood – and promptly received an Oscar. Bamert’s performances of both works are beautiful, sensitive and sympathetic, never overstated but always full-blooded. Jessica Duchen