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Korngold: Much Ado About Nothing, Op. 11 University Of North Carolina, School Of The Arts, Drama Soloists And Symphony Orchestra, Mauceri

Korngold: Much Ado About Nothing, Op. 11 University Of North Carolina, School Of The Arts, Drama Soloists And Symphony Orchestra, Mauceri

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Korngold’s music for Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado about Nothing, premiered in Vienna in 1920, enjoyed instant success and soon spread around the world. But the music has not been heard as Korngold intended since the 1st production. For this recording, made in conjunction with a staged US premiere, Korngold’s complete score was reconstructed from the original Viennese materials and is played here by the chamber-orchestral forces for which it was written.


This is indeed a worthy and welcome addition to the Korngold discography. At long last we have a further complete performance of the composer’s delightful incidental music to Shakespeare’s comedy. It joins the sequence recorded by Ondine with John Storgards conducting. The music was first performed in Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace when Korngold was just 21. It was very successful and the composer would later go on to adapt the music for various chamber ensembles and as an orchestral suite. Now we have the music as it was performed at Schönbrunn together with choice dramatic overlays including Balthasar’s Song, ‘Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more; Men were deceivers ever’, Beatrice’s soliloquy as she yields to love, and the two sets of lovers’ happy uniting in the final wedding scene.

The orchestra is the same size and specification as that at Schönbrunn with a string quartet rather than a string section so that proper balances with all the other instruments can be assured. With the string quartet are: solo flute/piccolo, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet and trombone with two horns, a piano, harmonium, harp and three percussionists plus solo timpanist. The original parts were available so that each player could replicate the bowings and articulations used in Vienna. Furthermore, all the composer’s own recordings of the work were made available too, so questions of tempo and portamento could be addressed. Conductor John Mauceri was a very apt choice for he has had much experience conducting Korngold and is a stalwart champion of film music, an asset that might well be regarded as not being far removed from the spirit of this work – in fact the March of the Watch could be considered a pre-echo of Korngold’s Sherwood Forest scenes from his The Adventures of Robin Hood. Mauceri also contributes the erudite notes for this album.

Korngold’s conception works very well in his chosen ensemble. It points up the comedy and irony such as that in March of the Watch and in the dreamy romanticism of the Garden Music. All those intimate glistening string-harp-and-harmonium figures, and rippling piano arpeggios, suggest birdsong and flowers nodding in zephyr breezes. It’s all in gentle romantic waltz time, plus the contrastingly intense almost Mahlerian Funeral Music. Although I would have thought it unnecessary, five of the pieces that have dialogue are repeated again in purely instrumental dress.

There have been a number of recordings of Korngold’s purely orchestral suite from Much Ado About Nothing. Of these I would unhesitatingly recommend Caspar Richter’s 2002 reading originally released on CD DCA 1131. This is not only because it included, for the first time, the enchanting Garden Music but also for the other items on this album which had great appeal especially Korngold’s divine Abschiedlieder Songs  (Songs of Farewell). A delight for committed Korngold fans.

-- MusicWeb International (Aan Lace)

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Toccata Classics
    • UPC/Barcode: 5060113441607
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