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Korngold: Incidental Music

Holst-Sinfonietta Chorus; Holst-Sinfonietta/Klaus Simon (Naxos)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Incidental Music: Much Ado About Nothing; Der Vampir
Holst-Sinfonietta Chorus; Holst-Sinfonietta/Klaus Simon
Naxos 8.573355   64:36 mins


Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Suite from Much Ado About Nothing has long been one of his most popular pieces, but it is rare to hear more of the music that he composed for the Shakespeare play, first heard in a production at Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, in 1920. It turns out that there are a couple of other gems that aren’t often heard, making this recording definitely a treat for the curious among Korngold fans.

Der Vampir is a rarer-still proposition, but to call this version ‘complete’ is sadly a bit misleading, because large chunks of the music are lost, or (possibly, one hopes) await rediscovery. The original drama has nothing whatever to do with Dracula. By Hans Müller – later the librettist for Korngold’s opera Das Wunder der Heliane – it is about creativity, jealousy and greed. The music is interesting, works well in this ‘melodrama’ format and brings Korngold closer to the edgy soundworld of Kurt Weill than we normally think of him.

While the recording is a must-have for Korngold collectors, there are a few problems. First, Der Vampir is text-heavy compared to the limited quantity of music: while Ekkehard Abele’s narration is delivered with plenty of character, no text or translation is printed, so you’ll need good German to enjoy the full impact. Next, although Hans Jörg Mammel’s voice is appealing and the Holst Sinfonietta’s playing enthusiastic and committed, the performance frays around the edges here and there.

Jessica Duchen

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