Korngold, Erich Wolfgang

Erich Wolfgang Korngold 29. May 1897 – 29. November 1957

Erich Wolfgang Korngold was the younger son of the renowned music critic Julius Korngold. He was born in Brünn (today Brno in the Czech Republic) before moving to Vienna in 1901. Erich Wolfgang Korngold was considered the most exceptional child prodigy since Mozart. His pantomime The Snowman was performed when he was eleven years old at the Imperial Opera at a gala performance for the Emperor Franz Joseph.  As a teenager, his two operas Violanta and The Ring of Polykrates were premiered by Bruno Walter in Munich.  His opera The Dead City from 1920 was an international sensation. Tensions in the relationship with his father led to taking on the additional challenge of updating Viennese operettas from the late nineteenth century, early twentieth century – the so-called “Golden Age” of Viennese operetta.  This work in turn led to collaborations with the stage director Max Reinhardt who brought Korngold to Hollywood in 1934 at a time when neither he nor Korngold could be performed in Nazi Germany. Korngold’s arrangement of the music of Felix Mendelssohn for Reinhardt’s film treatment of A Midsummer Night’s Dream so impressed the studio moguls that he was soon commuting between Hollywood and Vienna until Hitler’s annexation of Austria made his return impossible. Korngold would lay the foundations of what would become known as the “Hollywood Sound” though in truth, the sound was not Hollywoods’s but Korngold’s. He was awarded two Oscars, though he only scored the same number of films his eleven years at Warner Bros as other colleagues would score in a year. The stigma of his American film music success would fatally undermine his post-war reputation. He left Warner Bros as soon as the war was over and returned to writing music for the concert hall. Though his works were appreciated by grateful audiences, their critical reception was severe and took a large psychological and physical toll leading to a stroke at the age of 59 and his death at the age of 60.