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Born in Brünn (then part of Austria, now Brno, Czech Republic), the 29th of May 1897, son of music critic Julius Korngold, unveil soon his predisposition and musical hability, both as composer and performer. At five years old he has lessons of piano and musical theory, and two years later composed his first work. In June 1906 performs his cantata Gold in front of an amazed Gustav Mahler, whom recommended him as pupil to his friend, and also composer, Alexander von Zemlinsky. His first published score is the Trio op.1, which Universal Edition edits in 1910.
Prestigious conductor Felix von Weingartner premiered, in 1913, his spectacular Sinfonietta op.5, a score which shows his best symphonic and structural qualities; in fully popular and critical uprising, Korngold composed his first opera, Der Ring des Polykrates op.7 between 1913 and 1914; the premiere, in a double program with Violanta op.8, takes place the 28th of March 1916, under the baton of Bruno Walter. The success convince him to compose Die Tote Stadt op.12, whose triumphal first performances occurs simultaneously in Hamburg and Köln, the 4th of December 1920.
The decade of the twenties saw Korngold firmly rooted, both as composer and person. In 1924 marries Luise von Sonnenthal (Luzi from then on), and began to create the composition of his more huge opera, Das Wunder der Heliane op.20, a work on which the composer puts the best of himself. The premiere in Hamburg, in October of 1927, and its consequent presentation in Vienna found a critical rejection before the advance of scores musically more audacious, like the splendid Jonny Spielt Auf from Ernst Krenek, premiered the same year. Korngold's following frustration takes him to a series of years a little bit out of bounds, on where he dedicates a big part of his energies to arrange and modernize operettas, among others, from Johann Strauss II.
In 1929 Korngold mets theatre director Max Reinhardt, an encounter which will have a capital importance five years later when, at Reinhardt's request, he goes to Hollywood commissioned to make the musical arrangements of Felix Mendelssohn's music for A Midsummer Night's Dream, a new Warner Bros project. The return, in 1935, to a Europe in full prewar transformation only serve to slow him on the composition of his new opera, Die Kathrin. He accepted to return to Hollywood to compose the music for Give Us This Night, a forgotten film from Paramount. Once there he agrees to the Warner offer, and composed his first great film score, Captain Blood. In 1936 he obtained his first Academy Award thanks to his operatical score for Anthony Adverse, which couldn't avoid a new return to Europe to premiere his just finished opera. However, Austria's political and social situation is very troubled, and the announced first performance of Die Kathrin is cancelled.
Korngold returned without hope to Hollywood, and is there, when he is composing the score for The Adventures of Robin Hood (which will get him his second Academy Award), that his worst suspicions about his beloved Austria become true: the annexation with Germany, the Anschluss, is already a reality. From then on, except some lieder and a couple of choral works, Korngold will dedicate his musical efforts exclusively to the movies, a new direction confirmed after the failed premiere, at last, of Die Kathrin op.28 in Stockholm, the 7th of October 1939. When the World War II comes to its end, Korngold tried a new comeback to the world of "serious music", premiering his String Quartet #3 op.34 and the Violin Concerto op.35, two splendid works for which he used thematic material extracted from his film scores. In 1946, with Deception, from which he will extract his Cello Concerto op.37, he closed his Hollywood period.
Three years later
Korngold returned, again, to Vienna, where his Symphonic Serenade op.39
was premiered by Wilhelm Furtwängler; however, nobody seems interested on is
music, and returned disappointed two years later to the United States, where
he will dedicate his efforts to the composition of his last great symphonic
score, the Symphony in F Sharp op.40. In 1954 travels, for the
last time, to Europe for its premiere; after supervise and arrange Richard Wagner's
music for Magic Fire, the biopic which his old friend William
Dieterle is shooting, Korngold returns definitevely to the States. In 1957,
very shortened in force and will but planning a new opera, suffered a cerebral
trombosis dying the 29th of November, at the age of sixty.