ERICH WOLFGANG KORNGOLD: Symphony in F sharp, Op. 40; Incidental Music from Much Ado About Nothing – Orchestre Philharmonique de Strabourg/ Marc Albrecht – PentaTone multichannel SACD PRC 5186 373, 67:41 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:
Korngold – one of the finest of the Hollywood film score composers (while retaining a place as an important opera composer in Europe) – retired from film scoring after WWII and concentrated on concert music instead. His Symphony in F sharp is a gem of post-WWII orchestral music, but in effect is a sort of movie movie score without the movie. There was an excellent Delos CD of the Oregon Symphony with De Priest in 1997, combined with music from Korngold’s The Sea Hawk, but this new version sounds more committed and of course is in superior hi-res surround recorded in Stratsbourg, France.
Dmitri Mitropoulos had been very impressed by the Symphony and was going to conduct it in the 1960s but his death prevented it. Only more recently has it had some recordings. Korngold had dedicated the Symphony to Franklin D. Roosevelt. The opening movement is a bit sinister-sounding but has a lovely heroic theme in the middle. For the slow movement Korngold imitated his mentor Mahler by using a quite somber funeral march. It actually came from one of his earlier film scores. For the finale he used a lively rondo theme borrowed from the score he had done for King’s Row.
Korngold’s music for the Shakespeare play is lighter and more tuneful in its Overture and four short movements. It dates from much earlier – 1918 – and was written for a small ensemble. Originally consisting of 14 pieces, it was cut down for a five-piece orchestral suite. Some of the music was also arranged for violin and piano and played by both Fritz Kreisler and Mischa Elman. It’s most enjoyable music for the theater.
— John Sunier