Erich Wolfgang Korngold
String Sextet in D Major, Op.10
Korngold's String Sextet in D Major was completed in 1915 and premiered two years later to great acclaim with critics calling it the finest such work since Brahms. The style is post Brahmsian late romantic. In four movements, Korngold’s operatic talent is foreshadowed almost immediately in the very lyrical and romantic first subject. A calmer melody serves as the second theme. The second movement is an Adagio. It is tinged with sadness and introspection but it is not funereal. Next comes an Intermezzo which in many ways recalls the days of Golden Vienna at the end of the 19th century. The rousing finale alternates between a sense of urgency and a mood of jubilation.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) was born in the Moravian city of Brunn then part of the Austrian Habsburg Empire (today Brno in the Czech Republic). He grew up in Vienna where his father was a music critic for one of Vienna’s leading papers. Recognizing his son’s extraordinary talent, Korngold’s father took him to see Mahler when the boy was nine. Mahler declared him a genius and other noteworthy musicians such as Humperdinck and Richard Strauss held that he was the greatest child prodigy since Mozart. Mahler saw to it that Korngold studied with Vienna’s best teachers—–Robert Fuchs, Hermann Grädener and Alexander Zemlinsky. Korngold became one of Europe’s leading operatic and instrumental composers and conductors and subsequently served as a professor of composition at the Vienna Conservatory. In the 1930’s he was invited to Hollywood and thereafter became one of the leading film composers of his time. After 1946, he left the film industry to concentrate on composing absolute music.
There is no question that this Sextet is a masterpiece, one of the very finest in the literature which deserves a place on the concert stage. Although this is not a work for beginners, it is not beyond the reach of experienced amateur players of good technical ability.
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