Korngold Quintet, Op. 15; Sextet, Op.10
It was not so long ago that Korngold was dismissed in some circles as a second-rate composer who sold out to Hollywood. ‘More corn than gold’ was a phrase dreamt up by the New York Sun after the premiere of his Violin Concerto. How amusing. Should there be any doubters left, they should be made to sit down and listen to these two works.
The Quintet opens with one of those glorious Korngoldian melodies of the type that would later translate into music for the silver screen. It is extraordinary, given the relatively few piano quintets, that it is not heard more often. True, it is not an easy work to play – the pianist has a particularly demanding time in the first movement, while the second has no fewer than 54 changes of time signature in its 13 pages, a set of nine free variations on Korngold’s ‘Luzi theme’ (the coded message of love to his future wife Luzi Sonnenthal) first heard in the third of his Abschiedlieder, written at the same time (1921). The finale puts one in mind of the incidental music from Much Ado About Nothing. Stott and the Doric Quartet rather put in the shade my old Genesis LP (GS1063) from 1975, with pianist Harold Gray.
The Sextet is given an equally vigorous and stylish reading with passages of great tenderness such as the intense and melancholy Adagio, the second of its four movements. It aches to have lyrics attached – at least that is how the vocal quality of the playing emerges in this warmly recorded disc with its excellent booklet.