Erich Wolfgang Korngold
composed his Violin Concerto in D major
35, in 1945
the lush, lyrical idiom reminiscent of fin de siècle Vienna, Korngold
scored the concerto for elaborate
In addition to the solo violin
, the concerto calls for two flutes
(one also piccolo
(one also cor
), two clarinets
, bass clarinet
, two bassoons
, four horns
, two trumpets
, three trombones
as well as a colorful percussion
section of timpani
, bass drum
, and celesta
nobile: The magnificent soaring violin solo which opens the
concerto is a theme from Another
Dawn (1937), running over two octaves in five notes.
Juarez (1939) provided
the second theme, more expansive and reliant upon the orchestra.
- Romanze: A solo
clarinet introduces the principal theme of the slow movement,
quoted from Anthony Adverse
(1936) and revisited after a contrasting middle section that seems
to have been uniquely composed for the concerto.
- Allegro assai
The most demanding movement for the soloist begins with a staccato jig, which leads to a
second theme based on the main motif
Prince and the Pauper (1937) and builds up to a virtuoso climax.
A typical performance lasts about 25 minutes.
Bronislaw Huberman, who persuaded
Korngold to write his Violin Concerto.
Korngold had vowed to give up composing other than film music, with
which he supported himself and his family, until Hitler
had been defeated. With the end of
World War II
, he retired from films to
concentrate on music for the concert hall. The Violin Concerto was
the first such work that Korngold penned, following some initial
persuasion from the violinist
émigré Bronisław Huberman
. Korngold had been hurt
by the assumption that a successful film composer was one that had
sold his integrity to Hollywood, just as earlier he had been hurt by many critics'
assumptions that his works were performed only because he was the
son of music critic Julius
He was thus determined to prove himself with a
work that combined vitality and superb craftsmanship.
Dedicated to Alma Mahler
widow of Korngold's childhood mentor Gustav Mahler
, the concerto was premiered on
15 February 1947 by Jascha Heifetz
and the Saint Louis
. It received
the most enthusiastic ovation in Saint Louis concert history. The
composer wrote about Heifetz's playing of the work:
In spite of the demand for virtuosity in the finale, the work with its many
melodic and lyric episodes was contemplated for a Caruso than for a Paganini.
It is needless to say how delighted how I am to
have my concerto performed by Caruso and Paganini in one person:
Heifetz's performance launched the work into the standard
repertoire, and it quickly became Korngold's most popular piece.
the fame of the violin concerto, combined with Korngold's eminent
association with Hollywood film music, has helped obscure the rest of his
legacy as a composer of concert-hall works written before and after
his arrival in America.
Although Korngold was credited with introducing the sophisticated
musical language of his classical training to the soundscapes of
Hollywood films, a kind of reverse inspiration also occurred. Like
many of Korngold's "serious" works in traditional genres, the
violin concerto borrows thematic
material from his movie scores in each of its three movements
- Steinberg, 217.
- Liner notes from Ulf Hoelscher recording.
- As Quoted in Steinberg, 218.
- Steinberg, 217—218.
- Steinberg, 218—219.
The Concerto, a listener's guide
(Oxford and New York:
Oxford University Press, 1998). ISBN 0-19-510330-0.