Here’s some interesting trivia about Erich Wolfgang Korngold, passed along to me by Wendy Evans, the personnel manager of the Elgin Symphony (of which I’ve been a member for the past 10 years). We have played both the Korngold Violin Concerto and his music from The Adventures of Robin Hood this season:
Korngold and Sherwood Forest
Early in the year 1938, the Austrian composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold was negotiating with the Vienna State Opera over the cast and conductor for the premiere of his new opera, “Die Kathrin.” Bruno Walter was to conduct, and Korngold hoped the star tenor Richard Tauber would be booked for the male lead.
While in Vienna Korngold received a cable from Warner Brothers pictures, which read: “Can you be in Hollywood within ten to twelve days for scoring Robin Hood STOP Jack Warner okayed $12,500 for job but without paying traveling nor living expenses STOP strongly advise acceptance STOP.”
The Vienna State Opera suggested Korngold take the offer. After all, Walter and Tauber would be available that fall. The opera premiere could wait, but the generous offer from Hollywood could not.
And so, on today’s date in 1938 (5/12), the action film “The Adventures of Robin Hood” opened in American theaters, accompanied by Korngold’s music. The score would be awarded an Oscar.
While working on “Robin Hood” in Hollywood, the Jewish Korngold watched what was happening back in Vienna. His house and property were confiscated by the new Nazi government. Hours before they would be burned, an agent from his publisher rescued his Viennese manuscripts and scores. One of Korngold’s sons, who had stayed behind in Vienna, escaped at the last possible moment.
In retrospect, it’s very likely that Robin Hood had rescued not only Maid Marian, but also Korngold and his family as well.
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