Erich Wolfgang Korngold

Austrian American Composer (Brno, 1897 - Hollywood, 1957)

Korngold’s work is imbued with post-romantic elements; many regard him as the last heir of the Viennese Romantic movement. He is best known for his film scores and his opera Die tote Stadt.

Erich Korngold first learnt about music with his father Julius, a music critic for the famous magazine 'Neue Freie Press'. He went on to study with Fuchs, Zemlinsky and Grädener. Korngold’s career as a composer began when he was just thirteen when his pantomime Der Schneemann, which he had composed on the piano, was orchestrated by his teacher and performed by the Vienna Court Opera.  His works were then performed in Vienna, Leipzig, Berlin and Munich. He quickly mastered the complex tonal style of his time, used by his teacher Zemlinsky, Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler. He became internationally recognised in 1920 thanks to the success of his second opera Die tote Stadt, which premiered in Hamburg. The work was quickly incorporated into the repertoire of opera houses around the world.
In this period Korngold collaborated with the famous director Max Reinhardt, who had moved to Vienna in 1923. 1934 was a pivotal year in Korngold’s life: he was forced to leave Europe and went to Hollywood with Max Reinhardt where he turned his hand to film composition. He devoted the next decade of his life to writing film music. In 1936 he received an Oscar for his film score for Anthony Adverse, and another in 1938 for The Adventures of Robin Hood. He mainly wrote for romantic films and action movies. In 1947 he returned to writing chamber music, and orchestral music. 

Korngold possessed a natural feel for timbre and melody, which shone through in his film scores. He was able to build upon his early genius throughout his career. 

Six Landmark Dates in the Life of Erich Wolfgang Korngold

  • 1920  : His career-defining opera Die tote Stadt was premiered
  • 1927-1934 : Was a professor at the Vienna Academy of Music 
  • 1929  : Began collaborating with Max Reinhardt  
  • 1934  : Moved to Hollywood
  • 1938  : Won an oscar for his original film score for 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' 
  • 1943  : Became an American citizen

Six Key Works by Erich Wolfgang Korngold

  • 1910  : Piano Trio, his first published work 
  • 1920  : Die tote Stadt, premiered in Hamburg
  • 1923  : Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, written for Paul Wittgenstein  
  • 1934  : First music for film, an arrangement of Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night Dream
  • 1946  : Concerto for Violon 
  • 1955  : Score for the film Magic fire, which tells the story of Franz Liszt's life