WAXMAN Joshua Schell Gilfry Sedares

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FRANZ WAXMAN

Joshua
(Oratorium · Oratorio)
Maximillian Schell
Rod Gilfry · Ann Hallenberg
Prague Philharmonic Choir
Prague Philharmonia
James Sedares
Int. Release 04 Aug. 2006
1 CD / Download
CD DDD 0289 477 5724 5 GH
Maximilian Schell stars as narrator in world-premiere recording of Franz Waxman’s last composition


Track List

Franz Waxman (1906 - 1967)
Joshua

Part 1

Maximilian Schell, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares

Maximilian Schell, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares, Prague Philharmonic Chorus, Jirka Kratochvil

Maximilian Schell, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares

Maximilian Schell, Rod (Rodney) Gilfry, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares

Maximilian Schell, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares, Prague Philharmonic Chorus, Jirka Kratochvil

Peter Büchi, Patrick Poole, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares

Ann Hallenberg, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares

Peter Büchi, Patrick Poole, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares

Maximilian Schell, Rod (Rodney) Gilfry, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares

Rod (Rodney) Gilfry, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares

Maximilian Schell

Ann Hallenberg, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares

Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares

Maximilian Schell, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares, Prague Philharmonic Chorus, Jirka Kratochvil

Part 2

Maximilian Schell, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares

Rod (Rodney) Gilfry, Maximilian Schell, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares, Prague Philharmonic Chorus, Jirka Kratochvil

Maximilian Schell, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares, Prague Philharmonic Chorus, Jirka Kratochvil

Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares, Prague Philharmonic Chorus, Jirka Kratochvil

Maximilian Schell, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares

Rod (Rodney) Gilfry, Maximilian Schell, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares

Maximilian Schell, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares, Prague Philharmonic Chorus, Jirka Kratochvil

Rod (Rodney) Gilfry, Maximilian Schell, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares, Prague Philharmonic Chorus, Jirka Kratochvil

Rod (Rodney) Gilfry, Maximilian Schell, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares

Maximilian Schell, Ann Hallenberg, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares

Rod (Rodney) Gilfry, Maximilian Schell, Prague Philharmonia, James Sedares, Prague Philharmonic Chorus, Jirka Kratochvil

Total Playing Time 1:16:24

. . . sonorous performance and a wholehearted performance . . .

The performance is . . . exceptionally strong . . .

Waxman's command of his forces is impressive . . . Rod Gilfry is a virile tenor soloist as both Moses and Joshua, but Ann Hallenberg is outstanding in the part of the harlot Rahab.

. . . this is a most compelling work, with some beautifully written vocal writing ¿ both for the soloists and the choir ¿ and brilliant orchestral contributions. The narration is highly effective, never, for all its drama, overly histrionic, and the arias are equally as telling. Rahab's aria, "I Know Your God is Lord on High", is especially haunting ¿ Britten would, surely, have owned it ¿ and its melodic reprise by the aging Joshua "I am Old" is deeply affecting. This performance under James Sedares is magnificent. The soloists are superb, the mezzo Ann Hallenberg riveting, the choral singing is splendour itself, and the orchestral playing is virtuoso in the extreme. With superb recording quality, this is a very exciting release.

It's hard to imagine a more dramatic case being made for this work than what one hears here. Narrator Maximilian Schell, with his heavy accent and stagy delivery, dominates the proceedings . . . Rodney Gilfry sings with such tonal beauty and persuasion that one can well understand why the Israelites followed Joshua . . . James Sedares is no stranger to Waxman's music, and his word on the podium ensures that "Joshua" has the necessary dramatic impact . . . The orchestra plays well . . . The booklet notes are by Waxman's son John, a fine writer who knows his subject well!

Baritone Rod Gilfry plays both Moses and Joshua, and his heroic, full-throated declamations leave no questions about his leadership in either case . . . Gilfry provides the requisite Biblical grandeur in spades, and it is genuinely moving to hear his strength ebb toward the end of Moses's death aria, with its inexorable melodic descent by half-step. In another beautiful aria, the Jericho prostitute Rahab proves with a twisting, unearthly melody that she comprehends the true nature of the Israelites' God. Mezzo Ann Hallenberg's plaintively intoned phrasing is accompanied by a fully confident grasp of the piece's distinctive musical challenges . . . narrator Maximilian Schell's eruption of "Shout! Shout! Shout!" at the climax of the battle is unquestionably stirring. Waxman is stylistically fluid without being facile. All of it sounds fresh ¿ accessible, yet rewardingly original . . . The Prague Philharmonic Choir does fairly well with the English text, and conductor James Sedares keeps them quite energized for the most part . . . The Prague Philharmonia . . . plays masterfully.

Baritone Rod Gilfry plays both Moses and Joshua, and his heroic, full-throated declamations leave no questions about his leadership in either case . . . Gilfry provides the requisite Biblical grandeur in spades, an it is genuinely moving to hear his strength ebb toward the end of Moses's death aria, with its inexorable melodic descent by half-step. In another beautiful aria, the Jericho prostitute Rahab proves with a twisting, unearthly melody that she comprehends the true nature of the Israelites' God. Mezzo Ann Hallenberg's plaintively intoned phrasing is accompanied by a fully confident grasp of the piece's distinctive musical challenges . . . Waxman is stylistically fluid without being facile. All of it sounds fresh -- accessible, yet rewardingly original . . . The Prague Philharmonic Choir does fairly well with the English text, and conductor James Sedares keeps them quite energized . . . The Prague Philharmonia . . . plays masterfully.

. . . Waxman is one of the greatest of all film composers and the piece undoubtedly has its cinematic moments . . . The recording is staggering in its intensity and how it reveals Waxman's ability to work as a musical dramatist in a large-scale work. Given its huge performing forces, including four soloists, narrator, chorus, and orchestra, a recording is probably the ideal mechanism to showcase this amazing piece, and James Sedares conducts as if his life depended on it.

Das Philharmonische Orchester Prag und der Philharmonische Chor musizieren auf hohem Niveau, geleitet von James Sedares . . . Hochkarätig besetzt sind die Solistenpartien mit Rod Gilfrey und Ann Hallenberg, durch deren ausdrucksstarken Mezzosopran diese Aufnahme enorm gewinnt. Ein Werk, das sich ohne größere Probleme auch beim breiteren Publikum durchsetzen könnte, ist es doch geprägt von einer unmittelbar überspringenden Dramatik, thematisch kreisend um die alttestamentarische Schlacht um Jericho und stilistisch leicht zugänglich, da Waxman niemals den tonalen Boden verlässt.

Er hat ein anspruchsvolles, komplexes und modernes Oratorium geschrieben, dessen Intensität von einem erstklassigen Ensemble unter der umsichtigen Leitung von James Sedares so effektvoll wiedergeben wird, dass der Zuhörer das hier zum ersten Mal eingespielte Werk mit größtem Interesse verfolgt.

Ann Hallenberg insuffle à l'air de Rahab (écrit pour Shirley Verrett) une ampleur lyrique bienvenue, et James Sedares amalgame avec bonheur les éléments si divers que Waxman a fondus dans sa syntaxe, également partagée entre les souvenirs des musique de la République de Weimar et l'omniprésence des canons stravinskiens.


    FRANZ WAXMAN'S JOSHUA

The German-American composer, conductor and impresario Franz Waxman (originally Wachsmann) was born in Konigshütte, Upper Silesia (now Chorzów, Poland) on 24 December 1906. He started piano lessons at the age of six and in his late teens went on to advanced musical studies in Dresden and Berlin, studying conducting with Fritz Zweig and music theory with Hugo Strelitzer. To subsidize his studies in Berlin in the 1920s he became the pianist and orchestrator for the Weintraub Syncopators jazz band and also played four-hand piano with Gretel Walter, youngest daughter of Bruno Walter, at Friedrich Hollaender's politically avant-garde Tingel-Tangel Theatre. It was this connection that led Hollaender to invite Waxman to orchestrate his score for Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel), starring Emil Jannings and Marlene Dietrich, directed by Josef von Sternberg and produced by Erich Pommer.

After the success of that now classic film, Waxman went on to compose the scores for a further half dozen German productions at UFA, the leading German motion-picture studio. But in 1934, after being accosted on the streets of Berlin by Nazi thugs, he fled Germany and went to Paris, where his first major composing assignment was Pommer's film of Liliom, starring Charles Boyer and directed by Fritz Lang. Pommer's next project, Jerome Kern's Music in the Air, took the producer to the US, and he brought Waxman with him to arrange the music for the new film.

In Hollywood in 1935, Waxman wrote his ground-breaking score for James Whale's The Bride of Frankenstein, which led to his becoming head of music at Universal at the age of 29. Now settled in California, he composed 154 film scores over the next 32 years, was nominated twelve times for the Academy Award, and became the only composer ever to win the Oscar two years in a row - in 1950 for Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard and in 1951 for George Stevens's A Place in the Sun. Also unforgettable are Waxman's scores for such films as Captains Courageous (1937), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940) and Suspicion (1941), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), Objective, Burma! (1945), Prince Valiant (1954), The Spirit of St. Louis (1957), Sayonara (1957), Peyton Place (1957), The Nun's Story (1959), The Story of Ruth (1960) and Taras Bulba (1962), to name a few.

Waxman's breakthrough as a concert composer came in 1947 when, for the film Humoresque, he composed his "Carmen" Fantasie for violin and orchestra based on themes from Bizet's opera. The piece was performed on the soundtrack by Isaac Stern and subsequently taken up and recorded by such other eminent soloists as Heifetz, Kogan and Oistrakh, as well as a number of important violinists of the present day. Waxman's "Auld Lang Syne" Variations, composed in 1947 for Heifetz, has recently been rediscovered and recorded by Gidon Kremer. Some of Waxman's other works for the concert hall are 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). Apart from the oratorio Joshua, his most substantial concert work is The Song of Terezin (1964/65), a dramatic song cycle for mezzo-soprano, mixed chorus, children's chorus and orchestra; a new recording of it appeared in 1998 in Decca's "Entartete Musik" series. At the time of his death, in Los Angeles on 24 February 1967, Waxman was at work on a cello concerto for Pierre Fournier, a liturgical mass setting for St. Paul's Cathedral in London and, with James Forsyth as librettist, Dr. Jekyll for the New York City Opera.

Waxman founded the Los Angeles International Music Festival in 1947 and for the next 20 years, as impresario and usually as conductor, presented 70 West Coast premieres of major works by such composers as 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. Waxman's Los Angeles Festival Orchestra was "borrowed" by Stravinsky and Bruno Walter for their recording projects in the 1960s. Waxman also appeared frequently as a guest conductor of orchestras in the United States, Europe, and Israel, and in 1962, as part of the cultural exchange program, he was the first American to conduct the major orchestras of the Soviet Union. President Theodor Heuss of the Federal Republic of Germany presented him with the Cross of Merit for the promotion of contemporary German music. He was also an honorary member of the Mahler Society.

The librettist of the oratorio Joshua, Scottish playwright James Forsyth, was born on 3 March 1913 in Glasgow and received his training at the Glasgow School of Art. He was the first playwright-in-residence at the Old Vic, where he became the protégé of Guthrie, Richardson, Olivier and Michael St. Denis. His long and prolific career included 16 plays about historical figures such as Tolstoy and Napoleon as well as fictional characters such as "Trog". During his impressive career he wrote ten more plays for television and 18 for BBC Radio. Among his greatest international successes are The Other Heart, Heloise and Emmanuel. In latter years he returned to poetry and painting for his creative outlet. He died on 16 February 2005 in West Sussex, England.

In 1957, Waxman's and James Forsyth's work on the opera Dr. Jekyll was interrupted by 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, and once again 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 as the baritone soloist, mezzo soprano Virginia Botkin, and Norman Corwin as narrator; the Choir of Temple Emanu-El, North Texas State College (now University of North Texas) Chorus, trained by Samuel Adler, and members of the Dallas Symphony were conducted by the composer. The West Coast premiere took place on 1 June 1961 at the Los Angeles International Music Festival, and at this performance Donald Gramm was the baritone soloist, Shirley Verrett the mezzo-soprano, with the composer conducting the Festival Symphony Orchestra and Roger Wagner Chorale.

The text of the oratorio is based largely on the book of Joshua and relates the story of the death of Moses, Joshua's assumption of leadership of the Israelites, the taking of Jericho and pacifying of the neighbors, and the death of Joshua. The critical acclaim accorded Joshua at its world premiere gives an idea of the nature and impact of the work. Eugene Lewis wrote in the Dallas Times Herald on 24 May 1959: "Of all the musical works which this city has heard premiered, the one which was given its first performance anywhere in Dallas last night seems to hold the most promise for popular immortality. Franz Waxman's oratorio Joshua is big...in its musical forces...impact...ideas and exaltation... Mr. Waxman's musical vocabulary is conservative, by which we mean he avoids the extreme tonal philosophies of the modern experimenters. By making it very personal, he makes of it something original and fresh... There is wit in this writing worthy of a Handel or a Haydn."

The review also praised the composer's inventiveness, singling out the highly affecting prelude, in which an oboe, against lengthy held chords in the strings, cries a plaintive, Hebraic-flavored song, and the mezzo-soprano's aria "I Know Your God is Lord on High," which ends with the singer intoning "Spare me" in half voice over a sustained wind chord. "For the seven trumpets of the seven priests who marched around the wall of Jericho," as Eugene Lewis described the first performance, "there were added to the three trumpets on stage four others, one pair at left and one pair at right and quarter of the way down the sides of the sanctuary...It was the trumpets, naturally, on a long sustained note crescendo, which brought down the walls of Jericho. This excitement was followed by a brilliant chorus, 'Shout for the Lord has given you the city' with some magnificent choral writing and some lordly passages for brass. It is a tribute to Mr. Waxman's forces that the spacious contrapuntal writing of this section, in particular, did not elude them." In another review of the premiere, John Rosenfield wrote in the Dallas Morning News: "As a serious composer [Waxman] disavows adherence to any pattern of composition. He really should aver loyalty to all for Joshua has a range of Bach to Bartók. He writes with utter spontaneity. The aptness of style for the purpose on hand is so compelling that he does not scruple to sound like somebody else - as what good composer didn't? So you can hear music of classical serenity and transparency and music of intricacy and thickness, arias that are composed 'through,' and arias da capo with obvious versification. He can mount a fanfare a la Respighi, as witness his brassy Sinfonietta for the collapse of the Walls of Jericho. He can pinpoint dissonance as well as assonance. The net effect is vividly descriptive and easily accessible."

The present recording is the first complete performance of Joshua since the Los Angeles performance of 1961.

John W. Waxman
01/2006