Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Good Old German Engineering Part 2

One thing I have noticed about this month’s Masterworks concerts (Thursday and Friday nights, 7:30, Tennessee Theatre) is the format. Overture-concerto-symphony was most orchestras’ magic recipe for success for years and years. This season, only this week’s concerts follow this format strictly. Getting away from this formula was an important step in increasing an orchestra’s relevance, as a wealth of new music started appearing in the 80's which did not fit neatly into one of the three categories mentioned above. Some overtures really weren't appropriate anywhere but at the beginning of a concert and therefore came around less frequently, and I believe Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz Overture is a good example. It starts with a beautiful horn chorale that leads to some quintessential stürm und drang writing. Turning from C minor to C major, the finish is rousing and noble. (Reminds me of a fine wine I had recently).

Erich Wolfgang Korngold is about as under-appreciated a composer as the Average American might hear about. Considered groundbreaking and influential in his day, his music only fell out of favor in the 50's because EVERYONE ELSE STARTED WRITING LIKE HIM. When you hear a John Williams film score, e.g. StarWars, you have to remember that George Lucas asked Williams to make the score “sound like Korngold.” Concertmaster Gabe Lefkowicz gave a taste of the first movement of the Violin Concerto at the Remedy Coffee concert last month. This is the real thing and he is all over that violin, I tell you what! The themes of the work come from Korngold’s movie scores from the ‘30s; remember that movies were in black and white then, so a composer’s job was to supply color. Think Barber vs. Rachmaninov and you see where Korngold’s muse is. We have often played his Der Schneemann, (the Snowman) on Clayton Holiday concerts, quite an accomplishment for a boy of ELEVEN.

I have included the trailer for the Warner Bros. Film Anthony Adverse (1936) for a sample of his film scoring. So charming. And oh, oops, here’s a scene from the actual film. This is the film that the Violin Concerto’s second movement theme comes from. It's also the film that won Korngold his first Oscar.

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