Korngold: Piano Trio, Op 1; Suite, Op 23

Czech Trio, with Jana Vlachova


Supraphon/Koch SU 3347-2131

Recorded: October-December 1997

Beam up track two on this amazing CD, fast-forward to the delicious melody at 2'40" then ask yourself: is this piece really the work of a 13-year-old boy? The answer, as it happens, is no. Wolfgang Amadeus Korngold was still a month short of his thirteenth birthday when he completed his Piano Trio in April 1910. And although Mozart and Mendelssohn were busy penning fine music at an even earlier age, Korngold's half-hour Op 1 is unique in its vivid approximation of compositions to come. The first two movements bear witness to an almost spooky precocity. "Maybe his papa is trying to bring him up to be a real modern composer," wrote W J Henderson in the New York Sun on 18 November, 1910; "but, if he is not, then something ought to be done." Henderson goes on to suggest that if "we had a little boy of twelve who preferred writing this sort of music to hearing a good folk tune or going out and playing in the park, we should consult a specialist." Ditto the Nazis 24 years later, who branded Korngold as "debased", ousted him from Vienna and inadvertently planted the seed of a fabulous new musical phenomenon: the Hollywood film score. But not before Korngold had composed numerous masterpieces at home - the Suite for two violins, cello and piano, for example, that he wrote for the one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein. If you still harbour doubts, then switch to the Suite's 3-minute "Lied" (track 8), music that's as heart-rendering as a Korngold sound-track and as perfectly formed as a Brahms miniature. The performance is excellent, the recording admirably well-balanced.