- 01 – Korngold Margit aus den Vier kleinen fröhlichen Walzern o. O.
- 02 – Korngold Sonate für Violine und Klavier in G-Dur. op. 6 – I Ben moderato, ma con passione
- 03 – Faint light, for ensemble
- 04 – 6 stoicheia, for 4 violins
- 05 – Korngold Sonate für Violine und Klavier in G-Dur. op. 6 – IV Finale – Allegretto quasi Andante (con grazia)
- 06 – Zeisl Sonate für Violine und Klavier (Brandeis – Sonate) – I Grave – Allegretto
- 07 – Zeisl Sonate für Violine und Klavier (Brandeis – Sonate) – II Andante religioso (hebraique)
- 08 – Zeisl Sonate für Violine und Klavier (Brandeis – Sonate) – III Rondo – Broad – Allegro!
- 09 – Korngold Schneeglöckchen aus dem Zyklus 6 einfache Lieder op. 9
The Men who shaped Hollywood (Korngold | Zeisl)
Korngold and Zeisl were Viennese composers who escaped the rise of Nazism by journeying to America shortly before the Second World War. Once there, both composers adapted their talents to the world of Hollywood, becoming defining voices in the golden age of Hollywood movie scores.
The Korngold and Zeisl Sonatas are framed by two early Korngold works: ‘Margit’ from the Vier fröhliche Walzer, composed when Korngold was only 14, and Schneeglöckchen, from his 6 Einfache Lieder, Op. 9, on which the composer based the variations of his Violin Sonata’s finale.
The release also boasts an expansive booklet, including insightful essays by Barbara Zeisl Schoenberg explaining the origins of her father’s Brandeis Sonata, and by Zeisl biographer Karin Wagner.
“… a thoughtfully devised programme of violin sonatas … Spirited Johannes Fleischmann and his equally lively piano partner Magda Amara bring out the best in the fruitcake of a sonata baked in Vienna by the teenage Erich Korngold in 1911. But my ears were refreshed even more by the strength and mounting ethnic flavour of the Brandeis sonata of 1950 by Eric Zeisl … Much to enjoy here, and to discover.”
The Times - Geoff Brown / January 2021
“... Exodus, a thoughtfully devised programme of violin sonatas composed by two Austrian Jews on either side of the 20th century's two world wars. Spirited Johannes Fleischmann and his equally lively piano partner Magda Amara bring out the best in the fruitcake of a sonata baked in Vienna by the teenage Erich Korngold in 1911. But my ears were refreshed even more by the strength and mounting ethnic flavour of the Brandeis sonata of 1950 by Eric Zeisl, a composer who escaped the drudgery of Hollywood hack work by creatively mining his Jewish heritage. Much to enjoy here, and to discover.”
“Fleischmann’s aim in creating this album seems to be as much to document the lives of these two composers as to perform their works. The physical CD contains extensive and well-written liner notes by Fleischmann himself as well as Barbara Zeisl Schoenberg, Jessica Duchen and Karin Wagner. And in premiering the album, Fleischman assembled a panel of experts and historians to discuss the music…”
Violinist.com - Laurie Niles / January 2021
“By now most the classical music community knows and embraces the music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957), who was famous shaping the direction of Hollywood movie scores in the early days of film. He is also celebrated for his shimmering 1945 Violin Concerto, which over the years has been criticized for adhering to a Romantic style or "sounding like film music" -- but to this day continues to grow in popularity with audiences and critics alike.
Here's something I didn't know about Korngold, though: he was something of a child prodigy. In fact, among the works that he wrote as a teenager in Vienna was his Sonata for Violin and Piano - his "Opus 6," written at age 16.
This work, as well as a violin sonata by fellow Jewish film composer Eric Zeisl (1905-1959), are the inspiration for a new album by violinist Johannes Fleischmann - also from Vienna. His album, called Exodus - the Men Who Shaped Hollywood, also contains two other early Korngold works, performed with pianist Magda Amara and baritone Günter Haumer.
Korngold's early Violin Sonata is actually what led Fleischmann to the works of Zeisl, at least indirectly. After performing the sonata in Los Angeles in 2014, Fleischmann met an audience member named Barbara Zeisl Schoenberg, whose father - the above-mentioned Viennese composer Eric Zeisl, had been friends with Korngold when both were living in America, both exiles from a Europe then hostile to Jews.
Once Fleischmann learned of Zeisl's "Brandeis" Sonata for Violin and Piano - depicting his flight from Vienna and sorrow over the loss of his parents in death camps - he knew he must record it.
Not only that, but Fleischmann's aim in creating this album seems to be as much to document the lives of these two composers as to perform their works. The physical CD contains extensive and well-written liner notes by Fleischmann himself as well as Barbara Zeisl Schoenberg, Jessica Duchen and Karin Wagner. And in premiering the album, Fleischman assembled a panel of experts and historians to discuss the music, composers and historical context in a livestream concert of the pieces on the album. (The video for that was available for just three days, unfortunately!)
Earlier this week I talked with Johannes via e-mail about his own history with the violin, as well as the making of this album.
Laurie: How old were you when you started playing the violin, and what made you want to do so?
Johannes: I grew up with two musicians at home - my mother is a professor for voice at the music university in Vienna (MDW) and my father is a double bass player at the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. I actually used to climb his double bass when I was a baby. It must have been around the age of four, that my father introduced me to a colleague with the words: "Johannes, come here! This will be your new cello teacher!" My response was, "But I want to play the violin!" That was apparently the moment I decided to become a violinist. I got the chance to start lessons when I was five.
Laurie: How did you first encounter the music of Eric Korngold - was it through his violin concerto, or other music? What speaks to you about his music and his story?
Johannes: That is a good question, honestly I can’t remember the exact moment Korngold caught my attention. I guess it was a combination of his orchestral works and chamber music as well as influence on modern film music. When I was a teenager, I learned that John Williams was inspired by Korngold’s music, which definitely played a role in my deeper interest at this time, since I loved and knew Williams’ film scores from my childhood. After reading Korngold’s biography by Brendan Carroll ("The Last Prodigy: A Biography of Erich Wolfgang Korngold"), I was digging into his chamber music and started to learn repertoire. On top of that, the violin concerto is of course one of my favorite works of Korngold.
Laurie: Tell me about meeting Barbara Zeisl Schoenberg, and about her involvement in your album "Exodus."
Johannes: When I played Korngold’s violin sonata in 2014 in the Villa Aurora near Los Angeles, she sat in the audience and talked to me after the concert. Barbara told me her father’s story and invited me to her house for coffee, Vanillekipferl and Sachertorte. After deciding to combine Zeisl’s Brandeis sonata with Korngold's works on a CD project, I asked Barbara to write an essay for my booklet and to translate the booklet text of Karin Wagner (author of Zeisl's biography) from German to English. She happily agreed, and I am very grateful for all her involvement in the project.
Laurie: Once you heard the music of Eric Zeisl - what made you want to commit yourself to a project involving his work? What do you find compelling and/or original about his music?
Johannes: I learned very late about Eric Zeisl. Before I met his daughter, I only knew his name from recordings of his songs - the defining moment was the introduction to Barbara, actually. I found his tragic story so incredible, and since only very few people know about him as a composer, I decided to shed light on his story. The Brandeis sonata itself is a very rich piece of music, the three movement are totally different in character and are telling emotionally a great story itself about the composer. For example the second movement, "Andante religioso (hebraique)", is written in an extremely profound manner. He spoke about it as a conversation with God, also he connected that movement to the murder of his father in a concentration camp. Contrary to this, the last movement „Rondo“ is, in my opinion, a celebration of life, full of optimism for the future.
Laurie: Why did you call the album "Exodus"?
Johannes: "Exodus" originally thematized the "Departure from Egypt" (in a biblical sense), much like many people of Jewish descent in Austria had to leave or even flee the country during World War II to survive. Los Angeles, or the USA in general, was a safe haven and even a new home for many. Among others, Eric Zeisl had the possibility to find for his family a new life and a place to work, even though it was very difficult, since he arrived very late in California in 1942. The quote "The men who shaped Hollywood" stems from both their influence on film music, especially Korngold winning two Oscars and having a big impact on many generations in the business after him. Eric Zeisl really found himself as a composer in Los Angeles and brought the Jewish idiom into his music. He was one of the first important composers in Jewish classical music in California.”
“… an exciting programme…”
Radioklassik - Michael Gmasz /January 2021
“... an exciting programme…”
“I was performing the Korngold Violin Sonata in California… Zeisl’s daughter, Barbara Zeisl Schoenberg was at the concert… she told me the story of her father and about the Brandeis Sonata…”
BBC Radio 3 In Tune / January 2021
“I was performing the Korngold Violin Sonata in California… Zeisl’s daughter, Barbara Zeisl Schoenberg was at the concert… she told me the story of her father and about the Brandeis Sonata...”
“Magda Amara … is known as one of the best chamber music pianists, with an immense repertoire and a unique sensibility… Günter Haumer’s … voice is the perfect colour for this kind of music…”
Concertonet.com - Antoine Lévy-Leboyer / January 2021
“For those who do not live in Vienna and who do not know you, could you please introduce yourself and your colleagues and friends who participated in the “Exodus” project?
I was born in Vienna into a family of musicians. My mother was a vocal teacher at the Vienna University of Music (mdw) and my father was a double bass player at the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. When I was 4, my dad introduced me to a friend of his, saying, “This will be your new cello teacher!”. My response was: "But I want to play the violin!" So I started playing the violin at the age of 5.
I have always been very interested in music composed in and around Vienna. During my studies, my interest in chamber music and solo projects grew. It was also around this time that I discovered Korngold's works.
After deciding to record this program, I asked Magda Amara if she would join me. She is known as one of the best chamber music pianists, with an immense repertoire and a unique sensibility.
Finally, at the Wiener Volksoper I heard Günter Haumer, who performed chamber music and melodies by Korngold. I felt his voice was the perfect colour for this kind of music and asked him to join us.
Where did you get the idea for the “Exodus” project?
The “Exodus” project was born in 2014, when I performed a work by Korngold at the Villa Aurora in Los Angeles. Barbara Zeisl-Schoenberg [daughter of Eric Zeisl and stepdaughter of Arnold Schoenberg] was in the audience. We talked after the concert and she invited me over to her house. On this occasion, she told me about her father and his music over coffee, Vanille Kipferl and Sachertorte . It was then that I said to myself that including Eric Zeisl's work in a larger project would have great artistic and historical value.
There are so many parallels between the biographies of Zeisl and Korngold that it made sense to me to include them both. Growing up in Vienna and being myself deeply influenced by Viennese music, I immediately felt a deep connection with their compositions.
For example, "Exodus - The Men Who Shaped Hollywood" is about two Viennese composers of Jewish origin who decided to live in the United States at some point in their career to escape the threats of World War II.
While both very Viennese, Korngold and Zeisl had different aesthetics, one aware of the past and the other looking to the future. Is this the case and how did they interact when they lived in the United States?
Zeisl and Korngold did not know each other in Vienna. Korngold arrived in the United States quite early; he had the chance to make a name for himself. They only met in exile in Los Angeles and became friends there.
There may be differences in their personalities. Korngold used to communicate on the same level with the greatest artists of his time since his early childhood, which obviously helped him find his place in the Hollywood industry. Eric Zeisl, on the other hand, grew up in a totally different environment. He was more introverted and, due to his late arrival in California, most of the positions were already filled. Zeisl had to redefine himself as a composer and recreate his style to be successful, while Korngold was invited to come to Hollywood because of his compositions.
Korngold had tried to support Zeisl on different occasions, even recommending him as a major composer for a great film. Sadly, Korngold died of a heart attack before the project could come true. The producers decided to give his work to someone else.
But both were quite nostalgic for their past in Vienna. They both loved this city. Korngold tried to come back and failed, Zeisl never set foot in Austria again because of what had happened.
Both have accepted that their future will ultimately be the United States.
What makes Zeisl and Korngold “Jewish” composers? Is there something about being a Jewish composer?
That's a great question, what makes their music “Jewish”?
As we have already mentioned, Korngold and Zeisl had to flee the horrors of Nazism due to their Jewish ancestry. I don't think their musical development would have been the same without all the experiences they've had in their life.
Korngold's music was not so marked by its Jewish roots, but Zeisl was greatly influenced by the events that unfolded in his hometown. Zeisl was considered a songwriter in the tradition of Schubert, Brahms and Hugo Wolf. He lost his "tongue" after fleeing the Holocaust in 1938. The only lied he composed afterwards was in 1945 a Prayer .
It was only in the United States, in the 1940s, that he redefined himself as a composer and discovered his Jewish roots. In 1945, he composed the Requiem Ebraico in memory of his father killed in the Treblinka concentration camp and which is based on Psalm 92 . This was the start of a series of compositions using the Jewish idiom and the establishment of Zeisl as a Jewish composer.
You have a particular interest in the Brandeis Sonata . Could you present the work to those who do not know it? (and I would like to add that personally I did not know it and it is a masterpiece).
Eric Zeisl started writing the sonata in 1949 and completed it in 1950. It deals with his flight from Austria. It expresses not only pain and suffering, but also an unbridled thirst for life, coupled with a jubilant hope for the future. The sonata has three movements, in particular the first and the third which contain themes of joyful dance. The latter, in particular, culminates in an ecstatic dance motif.
The classic form of the rondo shows a wonderful connection between ancient Vienna and the new Jewish language that it found in music. The second movement, titled Andante religioso (Hebrew), reminds him of his father and is interpreted as a conversation with God or a prayer.
One last question, which I asked all the musicians during the period we are going through: how do you feel in this period of pandemic which affects everyone but especially musicians?
The pandemic is a devastating human tragedy. The lives of dear friends have been swept away by the virus. It has also had an impact on the social life of many people. In addition, for many institutions, the cultural world as a whole, many of my colleagues and myself, the year 2020 has been a financial disaster, having had to cancel many projects, concerts, etc.
But it gave us a year, or at least a few months, to reconsider what is important in life and in music. Artistically, it helped me in some ways. I tried to take this as a chance to prepare for my plans, to rethink what really matters, and to look to the future in a positive light.”
“For Fleischmann, this music not only reflects pain and suffering, but also joie de vivre and courage, as well as hope for the future.”
Falter - Miriam Damev / January 2021
“When you enter Johannes Fleischmann's studio, the mighty Bösendorfer immediately catches the eye between the CD and book shelves. "I got that last year," he says proudly. The Viennese violinist cannot play the piano at all. But because he mainly works with pianists and the constant search for suitable rehearsal rooms is tedious, the 37-year-old invested in the precious instrument: "Helmut Stippich from the Wiener Concert Schrammeln was with me recently, and we jammed until three in the morning.”
In the past year in particular, the studio was his most important retreat, says Fleischmann, who mainly performs abroad when there are no pandemics. "Several trips to Japan and the USA were planned, all of which unfortunately had to be cancelled. After the first shock, I found it very pleasant to come down and rediscover my own creativity - especially because as classical musicians we often find ourselves in one moving a bubble with structures that are no longer up to date. "
Bubbles are not Fleischmann's thing. As a musician, the son of a symphonic composer and a singer consciously moves between styles and has great fun pushing boundaries. Since 2016 he has been part of the Symphoniacs, a group of classically trained musicians of various origins who want to distance themselves from the cliché of classical nerds who are always among their own kind. The crossover project was initiated by the producer and DJ Andy Leomar, who himself was trained as a pianist and sound engineer at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna (mdw).
The pieces are arranged in a virtuoso manner, with the cues ranging from Antonio Vivaldi to Robin Schulz. The Symphoniacs interpret the Italian baroque composer with synthesizers and digital beats, while the German DJ and producers use piano, violin and cello. In a lockdown session on YouTube, the ensemble last played Bach's Toccata in D minor in a "Classic meets Club" version. "It's fun to just let the pig out," says Fleischmann. "All the better if I manage to touch people who have nothing to do with classical music."
Unless Fleischmann is rocking the Admiralspalast Berlin with a piece by the French club music duo Daft Punk or giving Bach's cello suite an extra dose of groove during an outdoor performance on a roof, he prefers to dedicate himself to music from Vienna in all its facets. He plays with the Neue Wiener Concert Schrammeln, is part of the Schoenberg Trio Wien, has his own concert series in the Muth and curates a chamber music matinee at Palais Coburg.
Most recently, Fleischmann dealt intensively with the music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Erich Zeisl, two Viennese composers who fled to the USA from the Nazis. He recorded the resulting new album "Exodus - The Men Who Shaped Hollywood" together with the pianist Magda Amara and the baritone Günter Haumer.
The idea for this came up in 2014 when Fleischmann made a guest appearance in Los Angeles as part of the music funding program "The New Austrian Sound of Music". In the Villa Aurora - Lion Feuchtwanger's former home has been an artist's residence since 1995 - he played Erich Wolfgang Korngold's violin sonata. Among the guests was Barbara Zeisl Schoenberg, the daughter of the Viennese composer Erich Zeisl, who died in Los Angeles in 1959. Her father-in-law was Arnold Schönberg.
"After the concert, she introduced herself to us and invited us to the Schönberg House for coffee, Sachertorte and vanilla crescents," says Fleischmann. "I didn't know Erich Zeisl then, and Barbara told of his tragic story." Before he fled Austria, Zeisl was an important representative of Viennese modernism. "The Nazis smashed his life back home and put him on the list of banned composers. He left Vienna after the November pogrom in 1938 and never returned."
In his "Brandeis Sonata" for violin and piano, Zeisl put the impressions of his escape from Austria on paper and processed his Jewish origins in them. For Fleischmann, this moves between styles and has great fun pushing boundaries.music not only reflects pain and suffering, but also joie de vivre and courage, as well as hope for the future.
During the online presentation of "Exodus" in the Palais Coburg, there will be a round of talks with illustrious guests, including Zeisl biographer Karin Wagner and Gerold Gruber, head of the Center for Persecuted Music at the mdw. The producer and director of the Jewish Music Institute Michael Haas is connected from London, while Barbara Zeisl Schoenberg from Los Angeles speaks up.
As soon as regular concerts are possible again, Johannes Fleischmann would like to travel around the world with this program. "In times when anti-Semitism and nationalism are rampant again, this issue has become even more urgent," he says. "I would like to go to schools with it and play the music in churches, synagogues and one day maybe even in mosques.”
“… the prestigious Viennese violinist Johannes Fleischmann masterfully interprets the Sonata for violin and piano, Op. 6 by Korngold and the ‘Brandeis’ Sonata for Violin and Piano by Eric Zeisl… The Moscow pianist Magda Amara intervenes in the works on this album with great success … The sound of the album, as always in this label, is great”.
La Discoteca de HispaOpera - Pablo Álvarez Siana / 4 March 2021
“Composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold (Brno, from the Austro-Hungarian Empire -currently Czech Republic-, May 29, 1897 - Los Angeles, USA, November 29, 1957) and Erich (Eric) Zeisl (Vienna, May 18, 1957). 1905 - Los Angeles, USA, February 18, 1959) escaped Nazism by traveling to the United States of America shortly before World War II, and became friends in exile from their homeland. In the American country, both composers adapted their talents to the world of cinema that took place in Hollywood, becoming two references in the golden age of the soundtracks of a good number of films, mainly the first, in addition to a significant number of compositions. of operas, ballets, chamber music, orchestral, choral and songs.
The Odradek-Records label released this kind of “tribute” album with a very illustrative title (EXODUS: The men who shaped Hollywood) in which the prestigious Viennese violinist Johannes Fleischmann masterfully interprets the Sonata for violin and piano, Op. 6 by Korngold and the Sonata for Violin and Piano Brandeis by Eric Zeisl. In 2014, performing the Korngold sonata in the presence of Eriz Zeisl's daughter, Barbara Zeisl Schoenberg, and after being invited to her home, she introduced him to the “ Brandeis” with which his father expressed the pain and suffering caused by his flight from Austria, and the hope for a better future. Since then, Fleischmann has wanted to put together two works separated by two world wars in the recording of this album.
The Moscow pianist Magda Amara intervenes in the works on this album with great success, interpreting the waltz “ Margit ”, from Korngold's “ 4 small happy waltzes ” , which was composed when he was only 14 years old, and accompanying Fleischmann in the sonatas and the Austrian baritone Günter Haumer in the brilliant interpretation of the lied " Schneeglöckchen" ( February bell ), included in the " 6 simple songs, Op. 9 " by Korngold himself .
The sound of the album, as always in this label, is great, and the careful editing of the packaging, too, with a cinematographic-style design with the Viennese violinist as the protagonist and that includes a photograph taken on Mount Lee, just behind the famous " Hollywood Sign ", the famous and iconic lyrics. The libretto brings a lot of information, with texts of interest by Jessica Duchen (Korngold biographer), Karin Wagner (Zeisl biographer) and Barbara Zeisl Schoenberg , explaining the origins of their father's “Brandeis” sonata.