A nugget out of the Korngold mine

15 May


Dear fellow Flynn fans,

in 2007 an exhibition called “The Korngolds- Cliché, Critic & Composition” was shown at the Jewish Museum of Vienna to commemorate 50th years since the passing of Erich Wolfgang Korngold. See:…

Attending this event was the Maestro`s granddaughter Kathrin Korngold, herself an accomplished ventriloquist, pardon, violinist of course! Here is an excerpt of the adressing speech she gave on opening night.

I am often asked whether I remember my grandfather. Regrettably, I was only three years old when he passed away, but for the last year of his life, my family lived immediately next door to his home, just a short distance from the Warner Bros. Studios. My memories of that time are shadowy at best, but my life has been punctuated and enriched by accounts of Korngold’s early life as a child prodigy, his musical career both in Vienna and Hollywood, his generous and benevolent spirit, his legendary quickwitted Viennese humor, the memorabilia that filled my childhood home and of course, the music. Always the music.

The genesis of the Korngold Renaissance dates back to 1972, owing to an RCA recording of the Warner Bros. film score classic, “The Sea Hawk”, produced by my uncle, George Korngold, and the esteemed conductor, Charles Gerhardt. The span of Korngold’s Hollywood career was relatively short – a mere twelve years — and yet its significance remains indisputable. In 1938, after having traveled between Vienna and Hollywood for several years, and having established himself as an Academy Awardwinning composer, Korngold was forced to make a critical decision that would have a long-lasting effect on his life, as well as that of his family. He was invited to compose the score for a film called “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, agreed, and then, having viewed a screening, had a change of heart feeling that it was, as he put it — “no picture for him”. On February 12th, Helene Thimig, wife of the famed director and impresario, Max Reinhardt, called the Korngolds who were now in California, warning them that it was “all over” in Vienna. To quote my grandmother, “Under the crucifying influence of the news we had just heard on the telephone, Erich began to reflect on the matter. My grandfather acquiesced and went on to earn his second Oscar for “The Adventures of Robin Hood”.

Fifty years ago, Erich Wolfgang Korngold died in Hollywood, brokenhearted – believing himself a forgotten man. I would like to close this evening, by articulating how deeply gratified our family is to know that Erich Wolfgang Korngold, the man and his music, have been welcomed once again to Vienna, the city he knew and loved so well. Indeed, the child prodigy has, at last, come home again.

Over the past 10 years, since my father’s death, I have seen my Family role evolve to that of an ambassador – a caretaker of my grandfather’s legacy, if you will — and now, my greatest pleasure derives from corresponding with scholars and artists who are keen to research and perform the Korngold repertoire. In doing so, I am fulfilling the promise that I made in 1987 to my Uncle George, shortly before his death – to do all that I could to help Korngold’s star continue to rise.

True to her word, Mrs. Korngold was very forthcoming when I approached and asked her what she knew about an abandoned Errol Flynn soundtrack of her grandfather. In Brendan Carroll`s Korngold biography, The Last Prodigy, the topic of a Don Juan score is mentioned.

She said that she could only answer speculatively about her grandfather’s view of the abandoned Don Juan mission.  As Flynn’s drinking bouts were the cause of the delay in shooting this film, she imagined that Korngold was disappointed. However, by 1945, she believed that he was already feeling somewhat disillusioned with the quality of his film assignments, and was ready to return to his concert works.  Poor health prevented him from taking on Forever Amber at Twentieth Century Fox, as well as The Adventures of Don Juan at Warner Brothers. He however did some sketches for a main theme.

I was allowed to order them from the Korngold Collection and show them to you here on the blog. Mrs. Kathy K., your heart is a Korngold mine- Danke schön!


— shangheinz


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  1. Gentleman Tim

    May 15, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Bravo, wunderheinz, bravo!!!

    Thank you so very much for all your wunderful ingots of information on the immortally il-luster-ous Erich Korngold, Errol’s symphonic compatriot.

    By any chance, did you learn from Katherine K. whether there was any personal relationship between Errol and Erich. Were they friendly? Did they admire each other’s talents? Did any of Erich’s family/children ever get to meet Errol? etc.

    • Maria

      May 15, 2015 at 2:57 pm

      Many thanks for posting this! In a way “Robin Hood” may have saved his life! Tim posted “Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D Major” awhile back – if it interests one person enough to explore beautiful music!

  2. daringthorpe

    May 15, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    What a great post, thank you I have always loved Korngold’s music because it seemed to take on a life of it’s own and added so much to a movie. In the case of Errol Flynn’s movies the music seemed to take on a bit of Flynn’s personality.

  3. Gentleman Tim

    May 17, 2015 at 7:09 am

    Saw tonight an extraordinary film with a wonderful performance by Helen Mirren, “Women in Gold”. Punctuated by wondrous depictions of Vienna, and good ones of LA and Hollywood Hills, as well, it tells the story of an expatriated Austrian claiming ownership of Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele, aka Woman in Gold.

    Watching this film, viennaheinz, I thought about this post of yours, others you have made involving accounts of Jewish Austrians compelled to leave their homeland before its fall to the Third Reich, later significantly connected to Errol’s life and career. Korngold very prominent among them. … This film very prominantly centers around the grandson of another Austrian musical genius, Arnold Schoenberg. I highly recommend it to all. For me, it provided great insight into the tragic circumstances behind the what the Korngold left behind and went through.



    • shangheinz

      May 19, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      Dear Gentleman Ton, there is another film you may like or like very much. It is the recently finished film “The Casanova Variations” located in Vienna and starring John Malkovich:…
      The soundtrack though not from EWK is taken from WAM`s “Don Juan”. Here we go again…

      • Gentleman Tim

        May 20, 2015 at 12:27 pm

        Gonna have to see this one too, novaheinz. Malkovitch is invariably interesting. I wonder if he’ll do the sequel, Flynn Variations.

        Btw, Errol’s homeland of Australia gets a nod of sorts in WiG. Some of us less continental people still think Austria has kangaroos and Vegemite, you know. That must go over big in Vienna!