The Symphony receives a particularly warm and beautiful interpretation. DePreist has a sympathetic feeling for contrasts of textures; the tempi are excellently judged and atmospheres powerful, with a vigorous sense of energy, tension and release. The Sea Hawk, though, is allowed to wallow. Particular poignancy is added through the presence of Korngold’s granddaughter Kathrin as a violinist member of the orchestra.
Although Korngold’s ‘complete works for violin and piano’ make up a reasonably full disc, it is only fair to point out that the Violin Sonata is the single work that is not an arrangement from one of his other pieces. Yet this Sonata, written at the age of 15 for Carl Flesch and Artur Schnabel no less, is a fine example of his early style, with its echoes of Zemlinsky and early Schoenberg. The young Dutch violinist Sonja van Beek and German pianist Andreas Frölich negotiate its challenges with ease: as in Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata, the pianist has as tough a role as the melody instrument. Much Ado about Nothing is one of several arrangements of a suite of four movements derived from incidental music to Shakespeare’s play written in 1918, performed here with affection and a silken suavity. The remainder of the repertoire is made up of arrangements of Korngold lollipops, hit numbers from his operas, such as the unforgettable ‘Marietta’s Lied’ from Die tote Stadt, arranged by the composer as salon pieces and popularised by Kreisler and his ilk.
The production and video direction are by British film-maker Ken Russell who puts his own stamp on the production. Russell told an interviewer he felt the plot was "silly" so he turned Marguerite into a young nun, eliminated the Walpurgis Night ballet, had Marguerite use sign-language for Valentin's deaf-mute children, and had Mephistopheles disrespectfully urinating in the stoup in church. However, the overall effect is visually engrossing, the vivid sets and costumes by Karl Toms are effective. And the singing is outstanding. Tenor Francisco Araiza handles the title role with confidence. Ruggero Raimondi, while he may not have the impressive lower register of many devils of the past, is a superb actor. Soprano Gabriela Benackova is in magnificent voice as the innocent Marguerite, and other major roles are impressively sung.
Probably best-known for his 1987 collaboration "Babel" with Klaus Schulze, Andreas Grosser is a bit of a dark horse in the universe whose big bang was krautrock and that went on to be called cosmic, space music or simply new age. "Venite Visum" is an anthology of recordings made between 1976 and 1980. Released in 1981 on UK's York House Recordings as a cassette tape only, it features some of the most out there, hypnotic and still state-of-the art space music ever to be known to man. For the first time transferred onto vinyl, compact disc and available as a digital download, it was perhaps best described by one reviewer at the time as; "powerfully relentless, repetitive themes which are constantly embellished and subjected to variations in tone colour and instrumentations…