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Is Romance Dead? Erich Korngold and the Romantic German Lied

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posted on 22.11.2021, 21:31 by Georgia Jamieson EmmsGeorgia Jamieson Emms

Far from being the operatic aria's less glamorous sister, the Romantic German Lied offers much dramatic scope for the classical performer. It has been described as the “quintessential Romantic genre”: the balanced and harmonious union of the music and text, in which the pianist and singer are equals. As accessible at private music gatherings as in concert halls, the Lied enjoyed popularity in German-speaking countries for over a hundred years, before facing its greatest adversary: Modernism. Romanticism, as an artistic movement, fought to survive in the uncertain musical and political landscape of the twentieth century.  In Erich Korngold, Romantic music found a staunch advocate, and Lieder gained one of its most gifted contributors. Following in the daunting footsteps of Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, Korngold's unashamedly luscious, rich orchestrations and soaring melodies earned him the nickname “the Viennese Puccini.” A child prodigy, Erich Korngold's rise was swift and glorious; his fall coincided with that of the German Lied and Romanticism itself. Romance may not have “died”, but it became outdated in the twentieth-century push for modernity and innovation across all art forms.  In encyclopedias little is written of Korngold and his compositional output beyond his most famous and enduring opera Die tote Stadt, and his pioneering film scoring in pre- and post-war Hollywood. In my research I will show that Korngold is deserving of a place in the music canon as not only one of the last great composers of Lieder, but one of the last great Romantics, whose life and works sit on the cusp between the old world and the new. Furthermore, I will address the question of whether Romanticism died with the arrival of Modernism and revolutionary experimentation in music, or whether it lives on today, albeit in different forms.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Classical Performance

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Music

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

New Zealand School of Music


Medlyn, Margaret; Robb, Hamish