Erich Wolfgang Korngold, (1897- 1957) is an American composer of Austro-Hungarian birth, best known as one of the originators of the genre of grand film music. He was also noted for his operas, especially for Die tote Stadt (1920; “The Dead City”), which earned him an international reputation.
Korngold’s background in opera revolutionized cinematic music. He debuted new techniques such as matching the rhythms of his compositions to the rhythms of spoken words, often using pitches close to those of the actor’s voice. He also made frequent use of leitmotifs, devising musical themes for various characters and concepts. Richard Wagner had popularized such techniques in opera, and Korngold was the first to apply them to film. In 1938 Korngold himself received an Oscar for the score of the Adventures of Robin Hood.
Apart from his film scores, he wrote much absolute (i.e., nonprogram) music, including his Violin Concerto (1937, rev. 1945), which borrows themes from several of his film scores and became one of the most frequently performed of all 20th-century concerti.