Articles written for AUFBAU by Leonard J. Lehrman

AUFBAU 68:11 May 30, 2002


The Arts

Orpheus Brings
Hollywood to the Y

Weill and Korngold To Be Featured

by Leonard Lehrman

The spirit of collective cooperation may be smouldering [Ed. changed to "dying"] in the former Soviet Union and France, but it's alive and well, at least musically, in New York. Since 1972, the conductorless chamber orchestra "Orpheus" have been taking on the challenge of playing together without an overall guiding hand.

On June 1, at 8pm, their 92nd Street Y program will feature "Jewish Composers in Hollywood." Originally the concert was to feature Ernst Krenek's "Symphonic Elegie for Strings" and songs written in Hollywood by Hanns Eisler. But then, the Y's publicity department informs us, "the singer cancelled." Sad that no other singer in the New York area could have been called upon to substitute and perform the beautiful and rarely-performed Eisler songs. But perhaps that's part of the perils of collectivism: said singer would have had to have had the approval, presumably, of everyone in the ensemble, and that takes time, which wasn't there.

Instead, Naoko Tanaka, who joined Orpheus in 1973 while studying at Juilliard under Dorothy Delay, will be the soloist in the beautiful 1925 Violin Concerto of Kurt Weill, unusual in its orchestra scoring without strings, except double bass. It wasn't written in California, the way the rest of the program was, but it should be well worth hearing anyway, and this will be its first performance by Orpheus in New York.

Also to be performed are works by the well-known film composers Franz Waxman (1906-1967) and Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957); a Divertimento by the Polish-French Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986); and, as the finale, the Chamber Symphony of Arnold Schönberg, which Orpheus has performed many times before. The other works the orchestra will be performing in public for the first time.

The Brno-born Korngold was the son of the Viennese music critic, Julius Korngold. His early Viennese operas, especially "Die tote Stadt" and "Das Wunder der Heliane," seemed to mark him as the natural successor to Richard Strauss. Arriving in America in 1934 on the invitation of Max Reinhardt, with whom he worked on the filming of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," with music based on that of Mendelssohn, he elected to stay after the Anschluß of 1938. In Hollywood, he wrote dozens of swashbuckling scores for Hollywood films, most notably "The Adventures of Robin Hood," starring Errol Flynn. His four-movement Symphonic Serenade of 1947, written while recovering from a heart attack, marked a return to absolute music, along with his contemporaneous Violin Concerto for Jascha Heifetz.

A native of Königshütte, Upper Silesia, Franz Waxman studied in Dresden and Berlin, making his name with the film score, "The Blue Angel." Emigrating to Hollywood in 1934, he composed and conducted music for 144 films, including 10 Academy Award nominations, He won twice, for "Sunset Boulevard" and "A Place in the Sun." "The Charm Bracelet" was originally composed as a set of five short piano pieces for his son, John. The movements, orchestrated by the composer, are titled "The Two Shoes," "The Four Leaf Clover," "The Little Soldier," "The Golden Heart" and "The Pony."

[For more information on Franz Waxman, visit his website at For more on Erich Korngold, or

For ticket information please call 212-415-5500. A limited number of $10 tickets are available in the rear orchestra for high school and undergraduate college students with IDs for $5. Senior citizens with IDs may obtain a 50% discount on the day of the show for most concerts.]

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