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
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
Lawrence Foster conducting Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona í Nacional
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
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.
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.
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
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
For a detailed background on Joshua, see the DG
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
7 The Story of Rahab and the Spies: In all the land of promise
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
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
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)