Rare Hollywood video: Korngold plays Wagner

September 2, 2017 by norman lebrecht


The formative film-score composer was consultant in 1954 on a Wagner biopic, titled Magic Fire.

He got to cover the playing whenever Wagner sat down at the piano.

Unmissable stuff.

Click here to watch.

Korngold also makes a cameo appearance as the conductor Hans Richter.

Comments (22)

  1. John Borstlap says:

    Fascinating…. a virtuoso pianist. Alas, in reality Wagner could not play the piano in such way and had brilliant young pianists to play through his music when he wanted to hear some.

    1. Hans van Der Zanden says:

      Enjoyed this movie some time ago, an American-German co-production from 1954, great director (William Dieterle), very good script (Bertita Harding et al), all roles, also the ‘small’ ones, played by top actors, and makes you wonder ‘where have all these talents gone’ – Alan Badel (convincing Wagner) and Carlos Thompson (perfect Liszt), Valentine Cortese and Peter Cushing great as Mathilde and Otto Wesendonck, Erik Schumann (Hans von Bulow), Charles Regnier as Giacomo Meyerbeer, and many other great actors.

      And indeed, great music

      By the way – Dear John: Wagner hardly plays the piano in this movie……..

      Highly recommended!

    2. Father Ted says:

      I doubt that fella Wagner could compose a song as good as My lovely Horse!

    3. Father Ted says:

      Wagner had a skin allergy contact dermatitis off the ivory he could not play a note at all, he had to have a bath in oatmeal daily! I also heard he may have had the Clap like Rossini! Father Jack told me.

    4. Father Ted says:

      What would old Wagner do in Frankfurt have you seen the news its being evacuated one of Bomber Harris’s 1.4 ton blockbusters UXBs, $70bn gold going too!

  2. Michael Endres says:

    Fascinating ! I was not aware of that.

    He was a superb pianist.
    Here he is playing and humming/singing:
    or improvising:

  3. Maria says:

    Not an expert on the workings of YouTube, but curious why comments are disabled for this video.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      It’s the hacking of the Hanslick clan.

    2. Robert Holmén says:

      “Disabled” because the poster wishes not to spend time weeding out comments from flat-earthers, birthers, moon-landing hoaxers and many other inexpert experts who lurk on YouTube.

    3. Brendan G Carroll says:

      This video is actually from my Youtube channel. Comments are disabled Maria, because I got sick of deleting obscene and abusive spam. I share my rare recordings for the enjoyment of others, not to waste my time on such morons. Nevertheless, I do hope you enjoyed Korngold’s performance and will enjoy the other Korngoldian treasures I have uploaded there. Thank you.

      1. RW2013 says:

        Sitting next to you in Heliane in Freiburg recently didn’t exactly thrill me either.

      2. Maria says:

        Thank you for the reply. I don’t understand why it would attract obscene and abusive spam but it takes all sorts, particularly on the internet.

        I was totally unaware of this film and have ordered the DVD, new, from “filmjuwelen-shop” on eBay.

  4. NYMike says:

    First time I’ve ever heard the Flying Dutchman Overture on the piano. Korngold’s technique is indeed formidable.

  5. Ruben Greenberg says:

    Composers don’t play the piano like other pianists. There is something undefinable and special about their playing.

    1. Father Ted says:

      Beethoven could play alright, even stone deaf! Pure genius.

  6. Ruben Greenberg says:

    Why is his cello concert never played? Is it as good as his violin concerto?

    1. Frederick West says:

      It ought to be better known even though it’s short(ish). It hasn’t got that breadth of the Violin Concerto but they both derive from his film scores, that had to count in its favour.

  7. Father Ted says:

    Father Dougal Maguire has just informed me of this great film about Schubert set from 1823-1828, the first part is where he is the hospital being treated for the Pox, opened by Joseph II, run by the Franciscans, they knew how to treat the Pox alright, a good rub down with lard and mercury chloride.
    No subtitles at all but it’s easy enough to follow, my hygiene in old Vienna was just like Father Jack’s room in Parochial House on Craggy Island!

  8. Ravi Narasimhan says:

    Then there’s Sviatoslav Richter portraying Liszt riffing on Glinka.

  9. harold braun says:

    But,at least at the end,there are definitely two pianists playing.It is a piano duo version.Maybe it´s him overdubbed.

    1. Brendan G Carroll says:

      This track accompanies a scene in the film where Liszt and Wagner play the piano together, reading through the score in Pleyel’s Salon. Korngold recorded both tracks (as you noted) and the two were combined on the soundtrack.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.