Matthias Bamert

Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Sursum Corda; Sinfonietta

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This 1995 Chandos release features two impressive works from the early years of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's career, when he was regarded as a Wunderkind rather like his namesake, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The symphonic overture, Sursum Corda, Op. 13, written in 1919 when the composer was 22, is a fantastically adventurous work in the mold of Richard Strauss' tone poems; yet surprisingly, it proved to be a bit ahead of its time and a failure with audiences. However, it ended up being used extensively in Korngold's 1938 score for Warner Brothers' The Adventures of Robin Hood, which won an Academy Award. This brilliant piece is well matched on this CD by an earlier composition, the ambitious Sinfonietta in B flat major, Op. 5, which Korngold composed between 1911 and 1912 and which demonstrates his astonishing precocity in orchestration, harmonic modulations, and absorption of the finer points of symphonic structure. Recorded in 1994, these performances by Matthias Bamert and the BBC Philharmonic are enjoyable for their bright colors, smooth execution, rich textures, and abundant energy, but they are not well-served by Chandos' reproduction, which is distant, shallow, and lacking clear separation of orchestral sections. Often, the result is an aural haze that may be suitable in some of the lush passages, but such soft-focus recording makes the music indistinct where it needs to be crisp and obscures many interesting internal details.

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