Symphony in F-sharp major (Korngold)

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The Symphony in F-sharp major, Op. 40, is the only symphony written by the 20th-century Austrian composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, though he also wrote a Sinfonietta, Op. 5, in 1911-12.

The symphony was completed in 1952 and was dedicated to the memory of American president Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died in April 1945.

The work utilises a theme Korngold had written for the 1939 film The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.

It was premiered on Austrian radio on 17 October 1954 by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under Harold Byrns, although it was described as "poorly rehearsed and performed.[1][2] In 1959, Dimitri Mitropoulos wrote: "All my life I have searched for the perfect modern work. In this symphony I have found it. I shall perform it the next season." But Mitropoulos's death intervened, and the symphony, though played several times on European radio, did not have its concert premiere until 27 November 1972 in Munich, under Rudolf Kempe.[1][2] Since then the work has entered the repertoire with a number of CD recordings available,[3] and the full score has been published by Schott Musik in their Eulenburg series.

It runs for about 50 minutes and is in four movements:

  1. Moderato, ma energico — intense and stormy, with a jagged main theme
  2. Scherzo
  3. Adagio — long, profound and meditative, in the tradition of Anton Bruckner. A memorial to Roosevelt.
  4. Finale — optimistic; listeners will recognize references to film music and the song, "Over There".

The work is scored for large orchestra consisting of: 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, double bassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 4 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (3 players are handling: bass drum, cymbals, gong, glockenspiel, marimba, xylophone), harp, piano (doubling celesta) and strings.


  1. ^ a b American Composers Orchestra
  2. ^ a b Composers Datebook
  3. ^ Surveyed by Ian Lace on MusicWeb International. Retrieved 2011-07-07.