Erich Wolfgang Korngold, 1897-1957
Korngold’s astonishing Suite for two violins, cello and a pianist’s left hand is a rare chamber music treasure, a single magnificent window into a the imagination of a profoundly gifted composer who remains mostly in the shadows of his era. Born in 1897, Korngold was a Viennese child prodigy who attracted the stunned praise of such mature composers as Mahler, Strauss and Puccini who declared him a genius as the Viennese public savored his precociously emerging music for ballet, chamber music, opera and symphonic pieces.
Paul Wittgenstein, about ten years older than Korngold and of the wealthy, cultural Viennese family (including his brother, the famous philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein), trained to become a concert pianist making his successful debut in 1913 to some acclaim. He shortly left for service in WWI where he was shot in elbow and, in a Silesian prisoner of war camp, ultimately lost his right arm to amputation. Irrepressible, he resolved to develop a successful left-hand technique and commissioned concert works from numerous master composers including Ravel, Britten, Prokofiev, Strauss and Korngold. Korngold first composed a single-movement piano concerto for left hand and then the remarkable Suite, Op. 23 in 1930 when he was thirty-three years old, both commissioned by Wittgenstein. (more…)