The 30th anniversary season of the Bard Music Festival — an exploration of “Korngold and His World” — opens this Friday, August 9, with Weekend One: Korngold and Vienna. The first of the weekend’s six themed concerts, Program One: “Erich Wolfgang Korngold: From Viennese Prodigy to Hollywood Master,” offers a broad overview of the composer’s multi-faceted career. Excerpts from his masterly ballet-pantomime, Der Schneemann, which he completed at just eleven, will be heard alongside a selection of his songs; the virtuosic Piano Quintet in E, an early-adult success; the Overture to The Sea Hawk, the last and best of his wartime swashbucklers; the choral A Passover Psalm, a rare nod to his Jewish roots; Tomorrow, the tone poem he wrote for The Constant Nymph; and his Cello Concerto, an uncharacteristically modern work that he wrote for the Bette Davis vehicle Deception, before expanding it for concert performance in his final decade. Superstar mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, “a once-in-a-generation opera singer” (New York Times), cellist Nicholas Canellakis, a “superb young soloist” (New Yorker), pianist Piers Lane, for whom “no praise could be high enough” (Gramophone), and the Grammy-winning Parker Quartet are among the featured guest artists, who join the Bard Festival Chorale, choral director James Bagwell, and The Orchestra Now (TŌN), Bard’s unique graduate training orchestra, under the leadership of music director and festival co-artistic director Leon Botstein. A distinguished scholar recognized as “one of the most remarkable figures in the worlds of arts and culture” (THIRTEEN/WNET), Botstein also presents an illuminating talk before the performance.
As the Viennese prodigy whose lush Romanticism came to define the quintessential Hollywood sound, Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897–1957) “may just be the greatest composer you’ve never heard of” (Independent, UK). Botstein explains:
“What was astonishing about Korngold was that — aged eleven, twelve, thirteen — he wrote music that, if you had blindfolded the hearer, they would guess that this was the work of a mature composer aged 40, aged 50, aged 60. Nothing in Mozart’s adolescent writing approximates that. And this was a child prodigy that burst on the scene in the early 20th century with an extremely complex musical language. Think of Richard Strauss, think of Mahler, think of this rich Romantic palette – and then think of a prepubescent child writing in this ecstatic, lyrical, multicolored way, music that was shockingly sophisticated.”
The Bard Music Festival’s signature thematic programming, multidisciplinary approach, and emphasis on context and reception history – all drawing on recent scholarship –provide the perfect platform for a reexamination of Korngold and his world. Five of Weekend One’s six programs are augmented with pre-concert talks by eminent experts, and Program Four, “Popular Music from the Cabarets, Taverns, and Salons of Korngold’s Vienna,” is accompanied by commentary from Derek Scott, Professor of Critical Musicology at England’s University of Leeds.
Presenting four relative rarities from pre-war Austria, the American Symphony Orchestra’s first concert of the season is Program Three, “The Orchestral Imagination.” Festival favorite and Gilmore Young Artist Award-winner Orion Weiss joins the orchestra for Korngold’s Piano Concerto for the left hand, a stirring and melodically inventive tour de force, and Metropolitan Opera National Council finalist Erica Petrocelli is the soprano soloist in Vom ewigen Leben, a pair of lyrical Walt Whitman settings in which Franz Schreker stretched tonality to its limits. These are bookended by the atmospheric Prelude to Der Musikant by Julius Bittner, once one of Austria’s most-performed opera composers, and Alexander Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony, a monumental orchestral song cycle featuring Petrocelli and baritone Michael J. Hawk, who recently demonstrated his “commanding presence” (Los Angeles Times) in the title role of LA Opera’s world premiere production of Moses.
Complementing Weekend One’s offerings is a panel discussion on “Korngold and the Phenomenon of the Child Prodigy,” for which co-artistic directors Botstein and Christopher Gibbs will be joined by Korngold biographer Jessica Duchen and Michael Haas, author of Forbidden Music: The Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis.
WEEKEND ONE: Korngold and Vienna
Friday, August 9
2019 BARD FESTIVAL OPENING NIGHT DINNER
Tickets include a pre-performance dinner in the Spiegeltent and a premium seat for the evening’s concert. (NB: The Spiegeltent will be closed for regular dining on the evening of the dinner.)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold: From Viennese Prodigy to Hollywood Master
7:30pm Preconcert Talk: Leon Botstein
8pm Performance: Stephanie Blythe, mezzo-soprano; Nicholas Canellakis, cello; Piers Lane, piano; Marjorie Owens, soprano; Parker Quartet; Erica Petrocelli, soprano; Bard Festival Chorale, James Bagwell, choral director; The Orchestra Now, conducted by Leon Botstein
Saturday, August 10
Korngold and the Phenomenon of the Child Prodigy
Panel discussion: Christopher H. Gibbs, moderator; Leon Botstein; Jessica Duchen; Michael Haas
Free and open to the public
Teachers, Admirers, and Influences
1pm Preconcert Talk: David Brodbeck
1:30 p.m. Performance: Jonathon Comfort, baritone; Elaine Daiber, soprano; Kayo Iwama, piano; Piers Lane, piano; Parker Quartet and guests
The Orchestral Imagination
7pm Preconcert Talk: Christopher Hailey
8pm Performance: Erica Petrocelli, soprano; Michael J. Hawk, baritone; Orion Weiss, piano; American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein, music director
Sunday, August 11
Popular Music from the Cabarets, Taverns, and Salons of Korngold’s Vienna
10am Performance with commentary by Derek Scott; with So Young Park, soprano; William Ferguson, tenor; Jordan Frazier, double bass; Kayo Iwama, piano; Kobi Malkin, violin
Popular and street songs and songs from film and stage by Johann Strauss II (1825–99); Leon Jessel (1871–1942); Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951); Robert Stolz (1880–1975); Ralph Benatzky (1884–1957); Friedrich Hollaender (1896–1976); Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897–1957); Ernst Krenek (1900–91); and others
Before the Reich: Korngold and Fellow Conservatives
1 p.m. Preconcert Talk: Kevin C. Karnes
1:30pm Performance: Nuno Antunes, clarinet; Aaron Boyd, violin; Danny Driver, piano; Tyler Duncan, baritone; Horszowski Trio; Marka Gustavsson, viola; Erika Switzer, piano; Gilles Vonsattel, piano
4:30 p.m. Preconcert Talk: Micaela Baranello
5pm Performance: So Young Park, soprano; Rebecca Ringle Kamarei, mezzo-soprano; Frederick Ballantine, tenor; William Ferguson, tenor; Tyler Duncan, baritone; members of the Bard Festival Chorale, James Bagwell, choral director; The Orchestra Now, conducted by Zachary Schwartzman