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Franz WAXMAN (1906-1967)
Joshua - oratorio (1960)
Maximilian Schell (orator)
Rod (Rodney) Gilfry (bar); Patrick Poole, Peter Büchi (tenor); Ann Hallenberg (alto)
Prague Philharmonic Chorus/Jirka Kratochvil
Prague Philharmonia/James Sedares
rec. July August 2004, Dvořák Hall, Rudolfinum, Prague. DDD
world premiere recording
Full track-listing at end of review
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 5724 [76:25]
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You now know the answer to the question: which Hollywood film music composer laid aside work on a cello concerto for Fournier, a liturgical mass for St Paul’s London and an opera Mr Jekyll for New York City opera to write the oratorio Joshua? None of the interrupted works was completed. And incidentally the librettist of the opera project, Scottish playwright James Forsyth (1913-2005), also wrote the text of Joshua.
The German-born composer-conductor Franz Waxman (originally Wachsmann) was born in Konigshütte, (now Chorzów, Poland). His music studies took him to Dresden and Berlin where he eked out a living as pianist-arranger for the Weintraub Syncopators jazz band. Friedrich Hollaender, at whose satirical Tingel-Tangel Theatre the composer had played piano, invited Waxman to orchestrate his score for the film Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) thus beginning his connection with the cinema. Film music work for German productions at UFA ensued.
The rise of the Nazis drove Waxman first to Paris and then to Hollywood. He wrote 154 scores there over the following 32 years. These included Sunset Boulevard (1950), A Place in the Sun (1951), Prince Valiant (1954), The Spirit of St. Louis (1957), Peyton Place (1957), The Story of Ruth (1960) and Taras Bulba (1962). A sumptuously recorded Charles Gerhardt-RCA LP initiated many in the 1970s including me to his superbly inventive music. Gerardt’s recreation of the Prince Valiant music was staggering. I remain bewildered that Sony-BMG have not reissued that glorious series in a composite box. It would fly off the shelves like hot-cakes.
Waxman’s concert music is well worth experiencing and includes the Athaneal Overture for trumpet and orchestra (1946), Tristan and Isolde Fantasy for violin and orchestra (1947), The Charm Bracelet for chamber orchestra (1949), Rhapsody for piano and orchestra, Sinfonietta for string orchestra and timpani (1955) and Goyana: Four sketches for piano solo, percussion and string orchestra (1960).
A selection of his concert music including Goyana; Carmen Fantasie for Trumpet and Orchestra ; The Charm Bracelet; Roumanian Rhapsody No. 1; Introduction & Scherzo; Auld Lange Syne Variations; Sinfonietta; Tristan and Isolde Love Music can be heard on KOCH International 3-7444-2H1 (see review). The players are Cristina Ortiz (piano); Mark Kaplan (violin); Vincent Ellegiers (cello) Rodney Mack (trumpet). Lawrence Foster conducting Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona í Nacional de Catalunya:-

Among his most substantial concert works is The Song of Terezin (1964/65), a dramatic song-cycle for mezzo, mixed chorus, children's chorus and orchestra; a new recording of it appeared in 1998 in Decca's "Entartete Musik" series (00289 4602112 - see review). There Lawrence Foster conducted the Rundfunkchor und Kinderchor Berlin and the Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin. The soloists were Deborah Riedel (sop), Della Jones (mezzo) and Michael Kraus (bar).
Waxman founded the Los Angeles International Music Festival in 1947 and as its guiding light and often as conductor, introduced seventy West Coast premieres: Bernstein (Symphony no.2 The Age of Anxiety, with André Previn as piano soloist, 1951), Britten (War Requiem, 1964), Foss, Harris, Honegger, Mahler (Symphonies, 3, 9 and 10), Mennin, Orff, Piston, Poulenc, Schoenberg, Shostakovich (Second Piano Concerto, Symphonies nos.4 and 11), Stravinsky (Oedipus Rex, 1954; Agon, world premiere, and Canticum Sacrum, US premiere, both 1957 with Robert Craft conducting), Vaughan Williams and Walton.
As with much of the factual material in this review I owe the above information to John W Waxman’s factually satisfying liner note. The booklet also contains the full sung text.
In 1957, Waxman's and James Forsyth's work on the opera Dr. Jekyll was laid aside on the death of the composer's first wife, Alice. Waxman was moved to compose an oratorio in her memory based on the book of Joshua. He turned to Forsyth for the libretto.
The world premiere of Joshua was given on 23 May 1959 in the sanctuary of Temple Emanu-El, Dallas with Mack Harrell (baritone), Virginia Botkin (mezzo), and Norman Corwin as narrator. The chorus was the Choir of Temple Emanu-El, North Texas State College Chorus and the orchestra was drawn from members of the Dallas Symphony. The composer conducted.
There was also a West Coast premiere on 1 June 1961 at the Los Angeles International Music Festival. There the line-up was Donald Gramm (baritone), Shirley Verrett (mezzo), with the composer conducting the Festival Symphony Orchestra and Roger Wagner Chorale.
The text draws on the Old Testament Book of Joshua and tells the story of the death of Moses, Joshua's assumption of leadership of the Israelites, the taking of Jericho and subjugation of the neighbouring city-states, and finally the death of Joshua.
The present recording represents the first complete performance of Joshua since the Los Angeles performance of 1961.
There is grandeur in this music but do not look for Hollywood glitz. If you are in need of more helpings of Prince Valiant or Objective Burma! or Sunset Boulevard you must look elsewhere. Waxman is as serious and even understated here as Herrmann was in his symphony, clarinet quintet or string quartet. He is even prone to the occasional fugue. The music is rounded, melodic, sincere and often quietly spoken but not without drama. The Prelude blends the idyllic peace of the Davidian psalms with music of quiet menace veering into brooding disquiet. Peace is given meditative voice by the singing of the flute curving into the melancholy oboe. Rahab has a saxophone ‘signature’ as a sort of leitmotif. Some of the massed choral writing reminded me of the Tippett of Child of Our Time.
As you can see from the header and detailed track-listing at the end of this review the orator plays a significant role. Maximilan Schell is grave and understated yet there is a sombre music in the colour and fall of his voice. This is to be compared with the neon crimson style of Theodore Bikel in the composite orator piece Genesis written by many of Waxman’s contemporaries in California. It’s also a notch down from the emphatic grandiloquence of a Charlton Heston narration.
This is a soberly impressive piece performed with warm ardour and dignity by all concerned but don’t expect overtly spectacular writing – no not even when the walls of Jericho are laid low.

For a detailed background on Joshua, see the DG website
Rob Barnett


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Full Tracklisting for Joshua
1 Prelude - Narration 1: The Sun was fading in the West
2 Chorus: Thus stood time - Narrator: But Moses was old
3 Interlude - Narrator: But with your new morning, Joshua
4 Aria: But, with your new morning - Narrator: So Moses faced his people (bar)
5 Aria: Be strong and of good courage - Narration 2: And in the plains of Moab (bar)
6 Chorus: Joshua, son of Nun - Narration 3: And Joshua set aside
7 The Story of Rahab and the Spies: In all the land of promise (ten)
8 The Story of Rahab and the Spies: Aria: Rahab's Plea (alto)
9 The Story of Rahab and the Spies: And for she feared God - Narration 4: And Joshua took that pack (ten)
10 Aria: Sanctify Yourselves! - Narration 4 (ctd.): And truly on that morrow (bar)
11 Aria of Perplexity: The walls are great (bar)
12 Narration 5: Then Joshua lifted up his eyes
13 Aria: Rahab's Prayer: The terror is about us (alto)
14 Sinfonia: The Siege of Jericho
15 Narrator and Chorus: Shout! For the Lord has given you the city
16 Fanfare - Narration 6: And Jericho
17 Chorus and Joshua: Ambassadors of Gibeon (bar)
18 Narration 7 and Chorus: And it came to pass
19 Chorus: The Watch by Gibeon
20 Battle Fanfares - Narration 8: And till the sinking of the sun
21 Aria: Sun, stand thou still - Narration 9: And the sun stood still (bar)
22 Chorus of the Priests: All the cities to the great sea - Narration 10: So, Joshua
23 Aria and Chorus: The Lord has given you all the land - Narration 11: So all these cities (bar)
24 Aria: This day I am going the way of all the Earth - Narrator: So he came (bar)
25 Aria: Oh, your sisters - Narration 12: And in Shechem was a great stone (alto)
26 Aria: Israel, Israel; The Lord has given you a land - Narration 13: So he let his people depart (bar)
27 Aria: I am old (bar)


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