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Work of the week – Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Straussiana

The New Year’s Concert 2015 of Dresden’s State Operetta will be on 1, 3, 4, 8, and 9 January. It is titled after Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s work Straussiana and will equally be a homage to Johann Strauss. The Orchestra under the baton of Andreas Schüller will play other Strauss-adaptations by Korngold as well, and of course also original works of the Waltz-king.

Korngold, who had to emigrate in 1938 to the US, tried a comeback in Europe after the Second World War. He stayed in his home country Austria for some years but could not regain his former popularity. Finally he went back to Hollywood, where in 1953 he wrote his last orchestral work Straussiana, commissioned for America’s school orchestras. For the three sections “Polka – Mazurka – Waltz”, Korngold used some Melodies from rather unknown works of Johann Strauss like “Fürstin Ninetta”, “Cagliostro in Wien” and “Ritter Pasman”. Thus he created a charming and brilliantly orchestrated Potpourri. Since the 1920s, the composer committed himself to the operettas of Strauss and helped to perform forgotten works by adapting them carefully. Also his Geschichten von Strauss op. 21 for piano dates from this time. Korngold’s father Julius, a famous critic, wrote about his son’s devotion to Johann Strauss:

When he once had been asked to rehearse and perform a Strauss-operetta, he soon felt the urge to revive the receptivity for Strauss’ forgotten music. That is how Erich’s approach led to a kind of Strauss-renaissance. – Julius Korngold

After the experience of war and exile, the composer certainly felt a certain melancholy writing Straussiana, remembering the glorious past in his native city Vienna. Only four years later, he died in Hollywood at the age of sixty.