Magic Fire/Wagner & Korngold

December 16, 2007



Magic Fire was the biographical film of the life of Richard Wagner, filmed in Germany by Republic Pictures and directed by William Dieterle. He wasn’t a newcomer to doing film biographies, having done Dr. Ehlrich’s Magic Bullet, The Life of Emil Zola and Juarez (w/Korngold). The 2 1/2 hour film was shot entirely on location in Germany and featured Yvonne De Carlo, Alan Badel, Peter Cushing, and even Korngold made an appearance as the famous conductor Hans Richter. The film was edited first to two hours and finally was to 93 minutes, which greatly contributed to it’s dismal failure at the box office. Years after its 1956 release it became a staple for late night television viewing. As one staff member quipped it wasn’t released it “escaped”. 


Please note that this is not original material from Korngold. Erich adapted, selected, and orchestrated the music of Richard Wagner which became the soundtrack for the film. Dieterle having this prior relationship with Korngold, along with Erich’s fondness for the unofficial “father of film music”, allowed the coming out of retirement to do this one last project. He hoped that with the control he was told he would have it would be a film to be proud of. Erich had spent the previous 9 years working solely on his classical compositions including his somewhat performed Symphony in F Sharp Major, Op. 40 (Chandos 9171 & EMI 56169 are available recordings). What you have on this limited edition 1000 copy Varese Sarabande release is a 26 track compilation of the music of Wagner with Korngold contributing (5) piano selections. Yes you have Erich performing albiet very ordinary sounding piano material. This mono recording is rather dull sounding with a limited dynamic range and a hissy tape sounding background when the volume is turned up. As explained in the liner notes by George Korngold the use of the “foreign track” caused some cues to end right in the middle of a selection or they just faded away making for a choppy listening experience. It wasn’t intended as a CD introducing the listener to the works of Richard Wagner, far from it. That being the case it might end the exploring of the German composer after the very first listen.

The person who is into collecting limited edition CD’s will be interested in obtaining this CD. As of this writing in December 2007 the record label company Varese Sarabande had already sold out. The person who is a completist in the collecting of Korngold will be interested in obtaining this CD. It is a historical recording and the last thing Korngold did making it important. Those are the only areas where this reviewer can recommend this recording to anyone. If one wishes to explore the works of Richard Wagner the public library in your area will have a multitude of material for you to listen to in excellent wide dynamic well recorded sound. Anyone who is truly interested in exploring golden age material should listen to Wagner. It is Richard who had such a tremendous influence on Steiner and Korngold. Without Wagner who knows what the first years of soundtracks would have been like.

Golden Score Rating is *1/2
CD# is VCL is 1107 1071
Produced by Robert Townson
Performed by The Bavarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Alois Melichar
Track Listing:
1. Main Title (Die Walküre, Act 3) (01:48)

2. The Meadow (Rienzi, Rienzi’s Prayer And Overture) (01:17)

3. Ocean Voyage And Paris (Der Fliegende Holländer, Overture And Daland’s Aria, Act 2) (00:55)

4. Visit To Meyerbeer (Les Huguenotes, Page Boy’s Aria, Act 2) (00:59)

5. Wagner Plays For Meyerbeer (Der Fliegende Holländer, Overture) (01:36)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, piano
6. Der Fliegende Holländer, Performance (Opening, Ghost Chorus And Finale) (03:36)
Otto Edelman, bass-baritone / Leonie Rysanek, soprano
7. Revolution And Tale Of The Holy Grail (Lohengrin, Prelude And Entr’Acte, Act 3) (05:19)
Hans Hopf, tenor
8. The Salon (Die Walküre: Winterstürme, Act 1) (01:38)
Leonie Rysanek, soprano
9. Wagner Plays Tristan Und Isolde (Prelude, Act 3) (03:17)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, piano
10. Love Scene (Dreams From The Wesendonk Lieder) (02:37)

11. Tannhäuser, Paris Performance (Overture And Venusberg Ballet, Act 1) (03:19)

12. Tannhäuser (Continued) (Sängerkrieg, Act 2) (01:31)
Otto Edelman, bass-baritone / Hans Hopf, tenor
13. Zürich (Tristan Und Isolde, Prelude to Act 2) (00:41)

14. The Bedroom / The Messenger (Tristan Und Isolde, Act 2 And Act 3) (01:27)

15. Farewell (Tristan Und Isolde, Act 2) (02:47)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, piano
16. Arrival In Nürnberg (Die Meistersinger, Act 3) (00:54)

17. Neuschwanstein (Die Meistersinger, Act 3) (01:30)

18. Wagner Plays Themes (Die Meistersinger), Vocal Rehearsal (Preislied, Act 3) (01:45)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, piano Otto Edelman, bass-baritone / Hans Hopf, tenor
19. Die Meistersinger, Performance (Overture And Act 3) (02:32)

20. The Warning (Der Ring Des Nibelungen, Curse, Fate And Death Motives) (00:52)

21. Triebchen (Siegfried, Act 3 And Siegfried Idyll) (01:45)

22. Liszt And Cosima: Wagner Weds (Die Walküre, Wotan’s Farewell, Act 3 And Lohengrin, Wedding March, Act 3) (01:22)

23. Bayreuth (Die Götterdämmerung, Walhall Motive And Siegfried’s Rhinejourney) (00:32)

24. Der Ring Des Nibelungen, Performance-Montage (05:06)

25. Venice, Wagner Plays Themes From Parsifal (Parsifal Chimes, Bell Theme, Temptation Theme And Flower Maidens, End Of Act 3) (02:41)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold, piano
26. Wagner’s Death – Finale (Parsifal, End Of Act 3) (01:07)

Total Duration: 00:52:53




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