Today marks 75 years to the day since the premiere of Korngold’s Violin Concerto. Like much of this composer’s work, the Violin Concerto took a while to gain popularity, but since we have moved into the 21st century it has taken up a much more regular position in the concert hall.
In her excellent biography of the composer, Jessica Duchen tells the story of the concerto, and how it was suggested to Korngold for close on 30 years by his friend Bronislaw Huberman, founder of the Palestine Orchestra (later the Israel Philharmonic). The regular suggestion became something of a running joke until 1945, when Korngold unexpectedly produced a completed score for the concerto. Ultimately the work had its first performance on 15 February 1947, with the incomparable Jascha Heifetz as soloist and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Golschmann.
As you will hear from this live performance with violinist Hilary Hahn and the Deutsche Symphonie Orchester under Kent Nagano, the work has an intense, lyrical profile from the start, shot through with the descriptive powers Korngold used to such good effect in his film scores. There is a longing quality to the first movement especially, a nocturnal second and an energetic third which generates impressive momentum to the finish.
Watch and see what you think: