The legacy of two film-music giants is celebrated in a pair of two-hour radio specials this month on Los Angeles classical radio station KUSC.
"Between Two Worlds: A Tribute to Erich Wolfgang Korngold" airs at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23, while "Double Life: A Tribute to Miklos Rozsa" airs at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 30, at 91.5 on the FM dial. The Rozsa special commemorates the centennial of the Hungarian composer's birth, while the Korngold program recognizes the Austrian composer on the 50th anniversary of his death.
Both programs examine the lives and careers of these post-romantic-era composers who found fame and respect in the concert hall in Europe before emigrating to America, where they found even greater acclaim, and financial security, composing music for Hollywood films. Both, interestingly, also resumed their concert-music careers after retiring from movies.
"Between Two Worlds" features a variety of performances and conductors, including Renee Fleming and Lotte Lehmann performing excerpts of Korngold operas; violinist Louis Kaufman performing parts of Korngold's "Much Ado About Nothing"; Jascha Heifetz playing Korngold's violin concerto; and a movement of Korngold's last great work, the Symphony in F-Sharp.
Film-score excerpts – from Captain Blood, Anthony Adverse, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, Kings Row, The Constant Nymph and Deception – are conducted by Charles Gerhardt, Lionel Newman, William Stromberg and the composer himself. Also included are vintage interviews with the composer's widow Luzi and son George Korngold.
Rozsa, too, shifted back and forth between the concert hall and the movie studio, as demonstrated in the "Double Life" tribute. Concert work to be played includes Rozsa's "North Hungarian Peasant Songs and Dances," demonstrating the composer's fondness for the folk music of his native land; his "Theme, Variations and Finale," which was performed on the 1943 New York Philharmonic program that catapulted Leonard Bernstein to conducting fame: and concert works commissioned by Heifetz and Piatigorsky.
Composer-conducted excerpts from many film scores – including The Thief of Bagdad, Double Indemnity, Quo Vadis, Ben-Hur, King of Kings, El Cid, Providence and Time After Time – are also included, as are interviews with the composer done in the 1970s and '80s.
Film-music historian and USC professor Jon Burlingame is writer, producer and host of both programs, with Gail Eichenthal serving as executive producer.