For the past month, Classic FM has been inundated with adverts for a chamber concert featuring the music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold - and the ads were annoyingly bad too. As noted in the program (and for that matter in the Wikipedia article also), although he had very notable success with film scores, his work is largely forgotten, and not often performed. South African based pianist, Luis Magalhães together with Priya Mitchell (Violin from UK), Daniel Rowland (Violin from UK/Netherlands) and Julian Arp (Cello from Germany) have started the Korngold Project - to record (and perform) the music of Korngold. The first performance was in Johannesburg last night, and will be followed by performances in Cape Town and Stellenbosch this weekend.
The show was supposed to start with Schubert's String Trio in B Flat Major, but that was scrapped as the musicians felt that they were not prepared enough. Given the overall length of the concert, it was not exactly being short-changed. The concert started instead with Mahler's (unfinished, as narrated by Daniel Rowland) Piano Quartet in A Minor. It is a sad, but beautiful piece - of something lost that was greatly treasured - something unexpected from a teenage composer; and to be honest, it didn't feel unfinished.
Korngold's Piano Trio in D Major, was the first Korngold piece of the evening. It is a fairly long piece (over 45 minutes IIRC), and quite a fun piece - in complete contrast to the Mahler. It was also written by a young prodigy (program notes state, Korngold was 13 years old), and it does have the childlike enthusiasm and energy. Korngold's Suite for Two Violins, Cello and Piano Left Hand, was at least as long as the Piano Trio, performed after the interval. It was a collection of 5 pieces, with contrasting styles. The last two pieces of the suit were particularly impressive and my favourite of the Korngold pieces.
I have been to many classical concerts, but they generally tend to be large productions. A chamber concert, with four performers at times looked lonely in the large Linder stage. But the concert was somehow more intimate than the orchestral performances, and each musician was more expressive and more energetic than even most soloists in orchestral performances. As to the composer - the music is certainly interesting; and having heard some of the film scores (on radio) this week - I think a larger Korngold project encompassing the various styles of music he created would certainly be worthwhile.