Ingo Metzmacher, who is conducting Korngold’s Die tote Stadt at the Royal Opera House tomorrow, is a specialist in new music – listen to his Henze, Hartmann and Messiaen, and the German series “Who’s afraid of 20th century music?”, one of the best antidotes to the idea that modern music is scary. So why is he conducting Korngold, whose reputation is ultra rich and retro ? “Because it is a modern opera”, he says “on the verge of modernism….It is like an old photograph. You like to keep it and look at it, but you know that reality is different”.
It would be interesting to see into young Korngold’s mind. He was intelligent, well aware of what was happening around him. But he was also surrounded by conservatives like his father. Mozart rebelled and did his own thing regardless, but Erich Korngold just seems too nice a guy to have done to Julius what Wolfgang did to Leopold ? Perhaps he bottled up his inner tensions. leading to his early death ? Or he channelled his creative needs in a different direction, ie the movies. It’s poignant listening to the Violin Concerto again. It’s famous because it’s relatively easy to schedule (unlike an opera) and is always popular with audiences. It’s instantly accessible because the themes are so familiar. They come from the films, though the films themselves recycled themes he was working on prewar.