VIENNA, Austria Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart Korngold?
Countless millions have at least heard of the classical masters associated with Vienna. Not only the titanic trio of Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johannes Brahms viewed the city at some point as their musical home.
So did Anton Bruckner, Joseph Haydn, Gustav Mahler and Franz Schubert.
But a half century after his death, mention of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, another great musical son of Vienna, often draws blank stares here and elsewhere despite his legacy as the founder of the "Hollywood Sound."
But in a small way, this year has been Korngold's moment in a Vienna that is still recovering from the marathon musical and marketing excesses of the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth in 2006.
The city's Jewish Museum is devoting a major exhibition to the man whose classical career fell victim to a triple whammy a domineering music critic father, the advent of atonal music and, finally, the rise of Hitler that perpetuated his self-exile to the United States.
A sampling of his famed film scores was performed for the first time last month in one of the Austrian capital's prestigious concert halls. And a film retrospective was dedicated to the Vienna's musical "Wunderkind" of the early 20th century who, neglected at home, morphed into the creator of the Hollywood soundtracks that continue to set the standard.
It's a tribute that may be 50 years late: Only a handful of his classical works remain popular.
But Korngold has established a huge musical niche and won two Oscars through nine works for film. They include genre-creating swashbucklers for Warner Brothers like "Captain Blood" (1935) and "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1938), in the lush operatic style that initially made his name.
Korngold himself saw no difference between his classical and screen writing, declaring: "Even if I wanted to, I could not write music below my own standards." He called his screen music "operas without singing," and experts consider his film compositions on par with much the world of "serious
music" has to offer.
"Like Mozart, he wrote," says composer and arranger John Mauceri. "It didn't matter whether he wrote a concert, an opera or light entertainment, he wrote the highest quality music."
His symphonic creations for the screen and those of successors following in his footsteps have been enjoyed by millions more attuned to melodies from "Lord of the Rings' than Ludwig van's "Fifth." And some of Hollywood's greatest screenwriters freely acknowledge the debt their industry owes the man who, while lionized by the movie moguls, suffered from the perception that his music was not taken seriously in Vienna.
"Anyone who works with music and film feels part of this historical line the golden years of what became known as the 'Hollywood Sound,"' said Howard Shore, whose credits include scoring Tolkien's "Ring." Even now, "the compositional ideas" of writing music for film derive from Korngold and his contemporaries, the Oscar and Grammy winner told The Associated Press.
Mauceri, founder of Los Angeles' Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and chancellor of the North Carolina School of the Arts, calls Korngold's musical legacy "so important they tend to dominate our conversation" about the history of music in cinema.
"Millions of people ... heard his music through the medium of film," said Mauceri, who conducted the Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna in a Nov. 29 death-day retrospective of Korngold works and contemporary film music at the city's art deco Konzerthaus.
"When you hear 'Harry Potter,' and 'Star Wars' that's something Vienna can be proud of," Mauceri said.