Conductor André Previn once quoted a music critic’s assessment of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D Major as “more corn than gold,” then went on to observe that while the critic himself had been forgotten, everyone knew who Korngold was. Today his name still ranks high in the pantheon of film composers; he won a Best Original Score Oscar in 1938 for The Adventures of Robin Hood.
What was supposed to be a temporary relocation to Hollywood to fulfill that commission from Warner Brothers probably ended up saving the life of Korngold, a Moravian-born Jew; the Anschluss occurred in his absence and he didn’t go back to Austria, becoming a naturalized US citizen in 1943. But he started out as a classical composer, dubbed a “musical genius” by Gustav Mahler at the age of 12 after the lad played an original cantata for the great symphonist. Richard Strauss and Giacomo Puccini had been among Korngold’s other fans back in Europe. He wrote operas and ballet scores, chamber works and symphonies, and went back to classical composition for good after only about 12 years of writing film scores.
Korngold died in 1957, and for a long while his lush Romantic style of composition became unfashionable; but in recent decades his reputation has grown again. Resuscitating the oeuvres of neglected composers being a specialty of the American Symphony Orchestra (ASO), it seems fitting that the same Violin Concerto that was so savaged in 1947 will be on the program this weekend as the ASO continues its winter concert series at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts on the Bard College campus. That piece will feature a latter-day musical wunderkind, Bard Conservatory sophomore Gabriel Baeza, on violin.
Puerto Rican-born Baeza was a winner of the Conservatory’s 2014 Concerto Competition, as was a 2014 graduate, flautist Adrienn Kántor. She will front the ASO in another piece on the program, Carl Reinecke’s Flute Concerto. The performances will wind up with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. Music director Leon Botstein will conduct.
There will be two concerts, both beginning at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, February 6 and 7. Peter Laki, visiting associate professor of Music, will give a preconcert talk at 7 p.m. each night. Tickets cost $25, $30, $35 and $40, and can be purchased by calling the Fisher Center box office at (845) 758-7900 or visiting the website at https://fishercenter.bard.edu.