Déjà Review: this review was first published in May 2001 and the recording is still available.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957)
Violin Concerto (1945)
Ulrike-Anima Mathé (violin), Dallas SO/Andrew Litton
rec. 1994, Dallas, USA
Dorian DOR-90216 
This must be amongst the crowning achievements of Dorian – a company noted for its professional presentation as much for its low profile on the world market. Confounding (my) prejudiced expectations of tungsten carbide soulless playing the Texan orchestra play their hearts out in a Sinfonietta that for me jostles for first choice with Bamert on Chandos. The Sinfonietta is neither small in dimensions (at circa 45 mins – longer than most symphonies) nor in breadth of mood. There is a lightness and lift about it which perhaps merits the description as well as an avoidance of bitter tragedy – but then this was written by a composer in his mid-teens. The ideas tumble out in luxuriant profusion and each idea has staying power. Forget the played out references to precocious child prodigies. This music is wondrously mature and it has, settled over its contours, a star-dust enchantment. Reference points include Strauss, Zemlinsky, Joseph Marx, Schrecker and Delius. The movement which will leave you with your heart in your mouth is the träumerisch third which, if you have never heard this work before, will leave you with a sense of wonder. I am listening to it now as I write and the goose pimples are running up my arms. Korngold had genius there is no doubt about that. The dewfall motif at 1.42 [track 3] is beyond price but there are so many such moments in this affluently generous souled work. Bamert is quite as good and as well recorded. Gerd Albrecht (Varese-Sarabande) and Werner Andreas Albert (CPO) are not quite as well served by their orchestras.
Then we come to the violin concerto. For years this was the province of Heifetz (1953 recording) whose violin sat inside our head as well listened so assertive was the RCA Victor recording balance. Then along came Ulf Hoelscher (EMI) who was accorded a far more ‘democratic’ balance. Gil Shaham (DG) I have not heard but friends speak highly of this. Ms Mathé (rather like Chantal Juillet in her Decca Entartete series disc) treats the music with dignity and allows it to breathe where Heifetz hectors and presses the music forward. The music does not need to be force-fed to the listener. The mood is wonderfully sustained by soloist, orchestra and conductor and I dare to say that these sessions must have been models of happiness.
Recording quality: open and subtle. Notes by Korngold biographer Brendan G Carroll – a model balance between pleading and information. A classic of recorded sound.
Help us financially by purchasing from