(L – R) Kathrin Korngold Hubbard, Brendan G. Carroll (president of the International Korngold Society and author of Erich Korngold: The Last Prodigy – Amadeus Press 1997), Jessica Duchen (author of Erich Wolfgang Korngold – Phaidon Press 1996), and Guy Wagner at the dress rehearsal for Das Wunder der Heliane. Photo: Korngold Society.
I’ve had the privilege of knowing Katy Hubbard (neé Korngold) for years, at first through my wife who at that time played with violinist Katy and her cellist husband John in the Oregon Ballet Theater orchestra, then in a series of semi-annual drinks and dinners that the four of us cram in to our crazed schedules. I’ve never had much of a chance to talk with Katy about what it’s like to be the granddaughter of a famous composer, so with the circumstance of Jun Iwasaki playing Korngold’s Violin Concerto this week, I thought that it would be interesting to delve a bit into the Portland connections to this great composer. (Incidentally, a conductor friend of ours briefly rented a room in Helen Korngold’s house, and I did get a chance to hold one of Korngold’s Oscars – though I don’t know if it was for Anthony Adverse or The Adventures of Robin Hood – and it gave me chills!).
A simple question to start: what’s the Korngold connection to Portland, Oregon?
My husband, son and I moved to Portland from Southern California in 1989. Two years later, my father, Ernst (Korngold’s elder son) and my mother, Helen, moved up to be near us and their, now, two grandchildren. Coincidentally, prior to our move, our dear friend, Brendan G. Carroll, had engaged Amadeus Press to publish his Korngold biography The Last Prodigy. It was launched in 1997, the year of Korngold’s centenary. That November, the Oregon Symphony performed and recorded the Symphony in F# Major, and I was privileged to join them on stage as well as in the recording studio. My father had passed away the prior year, and that recording is dedicated to his memory.
To the best of your knowledge, what was Korngold’s view of his scoring work in relation to his concert works? Was there a distinction, or did he aim for the same results regardless of the usage of the music?
Permit me to quote the man himself. In a 1946 interview, he said
Music is music whether it is for the stage, rostrum or cinema. Form may change, the manner of writing may vary, but the composer needs to make no concessions whatever to what he conceives to be his own musical ideology…
It is well established that my grandfather had consummate integrity, and that he made no distinction between his music for the screen and that which he composed as a child prodigy in Vienna.
What’s your role in administering the legacy of Korngold and his music?
I am an only child. After my father passed away, we created an entity called EWK Investments, LLC, which I manage. This entails a bit of bookkeeping, as well as corresponding with music publishers, artists, scholars and Korngold enthusiasts. I am fond of saying that a day doesn’t seem to go by that my grandfather’s legacy doesn’t affect me in one way or another. As a musician, I have been fortunate to perform with extraordinary and talented artists. As Korngold’s granddaughter, so many fascinating people have come into my life whom, if not for accident of birth, I would not have otherwise met.
What are some highlights of hearing live performances of Korngold’s music? And where in the world has this taken you?
Our family has had wonderful experiences traveling within the United States and abroad for Korngold performances. As I’ve mentioned, 1997 was the centenary – my mother, my husband, both our children and I went to London to hear several concerts at the Proms given at Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time we had the pleasure of hearing Gil Shaham play the Violin Concerto – and what a treat it was!
In 1999, John and I traveled to the small town of Trier, Germany where we attended a production of my grandfather’s last opera Die Kathrin, for which I was named. After the performance I was brought on stage and presented with a beautiful bouquet and some local wine. John, still seated in the audience, told me later that he was overcome with emotion.
In 2004, Korngold was the featured composer at the Salzburg Festival. This time the children went with us and we had a glourious time trooping all over Austria. We enjoyed many concerts and saw the premiere of the Willy Decker production of Korngold’s most well-known opera, Die Tote Stadt, performed by the Vienna Philharmonic with Donald Runnicles at the helm. (That production has also been staged in Vienna, San Francisco, Barcelona, and will open at Covent Garden this week.)
Finally, in 2007, the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Korngolds death, John and I traveled again to Europe. In London, we heard several concerts and saw, for the very first time, a concert production of Das Wunder der Heliane with the London Philharmonic in the pit and Vladimir Jruowski on the podium. That was a magical night! On to Vienna where we attended many more concerts and I was interviewed for radio and television broadcasts.
Additionally, the Jewish Museum of Vienna mounted an exhibition surrounding the life of Erich Wolfgang Korngold as well as his notoriously famous father, Julius Korngold – the leading music critic of the Neue Frie Presse at the turn of the last century. I was asked to represent the family and give a speech at the opening of this exhibition, fortunately in English! Here is how it concluded:
Fifty years ago, 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.