Bard Music Festival’s “Korngold and His World” opens this weekend

(Photo by Peter Aaron | Esto)

Summer is such a hopping time at Bard that it can be hard to tell which parts, exactly, constitute the Bard Music Festival and which parts are just…you know, summer at Bard, also known as SummerScape. The Bard Music Festival is the condensed payoff of the SummerScape programming: an exhaustive investigation of the work and significance of a single composer. Bard tends to select composers based not only on individual genius, but also on a rich, synergistic context of cultural and historical factors, giving intellectuals across the disciplines a lot to chew on.

This year’s subject is the famous film composer Erich Korngold, an Austrian-born groomed to take his place in the great Viennese tradition of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms. Several factors – being Jewish at the worst time, for example, and being groomed for a profession that did not really exist anymore – sent Korngold’s destiny skittering on a different path: one that led to Hollywood, where Korngold and his peers are credited with defining the sound of American cinema.

And now we are in the thick of it. Through 12 themed concerts, pre-concert lectures, panel discussions and expert commentary, the 30th Bard Music Festival examines the life and times of Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957). “Korngold and His World” programs take place over the next two weekends. Program One on opening night, August 9, is “Erich Wolfgang Korngold: From Viennese Prodigy to Hollywood Master,” an all-Korngold chamber and orchestral program featuring maestro Leon Botstein, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and pianist Piers Lane.

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There will be two programs each on Saturday and Sunday. Program Two, “Teachers, Admirers and Influences,” pairs Korngold’s early work with chamber and vocal music by prominent composers in the Vienna of his youth. Program Three is titled “The Orchestral Imagination,” presenting four relative rarities including Korngold’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, a stirring and melodically inventive tour de force performed by Orion Weiss.

Weekend one closes with two Sunday programs: Program Four: “Popular Music from the Cabarets, Taverns and Salons of Korngold’s Vienna,” and Program Five: “Before the Reich: Korngold and Fellow Conservatives,” featuring chamber music written by the composer and some of his less revolutionary contemporaries.

That’s just Weekend One. Visit the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts website for tickets, prices, venues and the full schedule of events.

– John Burdick

“Korngold and His World,” August 9-18, Fisher Center, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, (845) 758-7900, https://fishercenter.bard.edu

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