With the exception of Korngold's violin sonata, all of the works on this CD are arrangements for violin and piano made by Korngold from orchestral or piano works. There are four pieces from his 1920 incidental music for a Schönbrunn Palace stage presentation of 'Much Ado About Nothing.' Originally written for orchestra, this arrangement was made by Korngold so that the play could also be done with a minimum number of musicians. The first selection, 'Mädchen im Brautgemach' ('Maiden in the Bridal Chamber') is about as schmaltzy (and delicious) as anything Korngold ever wrote. The same could be said about No. 3, 'Gartenszene' ('Garden Scene'). If nothing else they suggest that Shakespeare may have made a mistake giving 'Much Ado' a Mediterranean setting rather than turn-of-the-century Vienna! The other two pieces in that set, 'Holzapfel und Schlehwein' ('Dogberry and Verges') and 'Mummenschanz' ('Masquerade') are good-humored scherzi. As in the rest of this disc, young violinist Joseph Lin (not to be confused with master violinist Cho-Liang Lin, known widely as by his English nickname, 'Jimmy') and his piano accompanist, Benjamin Loeb, do a superb job with these ultrachromatic works.
The Sonata for Violin and Piano in G Major, Op. 6, was written when Korngold was only fifteen, but one would never know that. It is a fully-formed and craftily constructed four-movement work of 36 minutes. There is a sonata-allegro first movement whose recapitulation is dominated by the second theme that then disappears into a reflective coda. The second movement is a playful scherzo with typical ABA form but with some masterful thematic transformations and a transmuted Viennese waltz in the Trio. The Adagio 'mit tiefer Empfindung' ('with intense feeling') is a sentimental song for the violin that climaxes in a passionate peroration before dying away. The Finale, an Allegretto, is a set of variations (on a theme taken from Korngold's even earlier opera, 'Schneeglöckchen' ['Snowdrops']) that also quotes themes from the earlier movements.
The remaining five pieces are mostly piano-violin arrangements of some of the best-known moments from Korngold's operas: an aria from 'Das Wunder der Heliane,' an interlude from 'Der Schneemann,' the 'Tanzlied des Pierrot' and the still-familiar 'Mariettas Lied' from 'Die Tote Stadt.' The non-operatic exception is the brilliant 1932 Korngold-approved 'Caprice-fantastique' arranged by the Hungarian violinist, Rószika Révay, based on 'Wichtelmännchen' ('Goblins') from Korngold's early piano suite, 'Märchenbilder' ('Fairy Tale Pictures').
These are pieces that have been recorded before but never collected in one place. The performances by Lin and Loeb are musical, assured and scintillating. This is a worthwhile addition to the Korngold fan's collection. And a nice introduction to some of Korngold's non-movie-score and non-orchestral music.