Saturday, November 17, 2007



Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 18th of November 2007 at 3 pm




ERICH KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Der Ring des Polykrates, an opera in one act
Wilhelm Arndt............... Endrik Wottrich
Laura............................ Beate Bilandzija
Florian Döblinger........... Jürgen Sacher
Lieschen........................ Kirsten Blanck
Peter Vogel................... Dietrich Henschel
German SO, Berlin/Klauspeter Seibel (CPO 999 402)


The musician Wilhelm Arndt is celebrating his great luck with his young wife Laura: he has just been named court music director, and he has also inherited a small fortune in the unexpected death of his aunt. All that is lacking is the return of his long-lost friend Peter Vogel.

Vogel arrives and views the cosy atmosphere of the Arndt household with envy. In order to provoke Wilhelm, he advises him to sacrifice something, after the model of Schiller’s “The Ring of Polycrates” ballad, this in order not to challenge fate with his great good luck. Wilhelm is supposed to start an argument with his wife by asking the “Fateful question” about her former life. Laura cannot be made to lose her composure, and even her anger at the question Wilhelm has posed with a guilty conscience does not last very long. Soon the two are in each other’s arms once again.

They agree: the Ring of Polycrates , the sacrifice that has to be offered, is the intriguer Peter Vogel himself, who has tried to ruin their happiness .

(Andreas K. W. Meyer [adapted])

This Austrian composer fascinates me. He wrote this opera when he was seventeen (1916), and also Violanta, a tragic and violent love-story (this one I have on black discs in a box). His greatest success was/is Die Tote Stadt ('The Dead City'), composed when he was twenty-three (I have that one, with Carol Neblett, René Kollo, Hermann Prey, and Benjamin Luxon).

His Yiddish name (corn-gold) reveals that he was Jewish, and he was saved from the Holocaust by Robin Hood (he went to America in 1938 to compose the background music for the Errol Flynn film, and decided he had better stay and work in Hollywood). This year we had a nice evening with our grandchildren, watching my copy of The Sea Hawk, and as always I tuned in to the soundtrack music. I have the movies Robin Hood, Captain Blood, Prince and Pauper, Elizabeth and Essex, Kings Row (with an impressive Ronald Reagan).

Erich Wolfgang was a child progeny (that's what some people call a tautology) or do I mean a prodigal son? Anyway, a biography characterizes him as the last prodigy (which does not mean he was prodigiously prodigal with his talent); Ernest Newman compared him with Mozart, as a 'wunderkind'; and Richard Strauss admired his operas.

Korngold loved Wagner (in spite of the anti-Jewish attitude of that composer), and used leitmotifs in his music for the movies; the last film he worked on was Magic Fire, a biography of Richard Wagner (with Yvonne de Carlo as his wife Minna, and Peter Cushing is lurking in there, too).

The Ring of Polykrates is much more compact than the Ring of the Nibelung, by the way.

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