FRANZ WAXMAN = The Classic Film Scores of Franz Waxman – Nat. Philharmonic Orch. / Charles Gerhardt – HDTT

by | Oct 28, 2015 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

FRANZ WAXMAN = The Classic Film Scores of Franz Waxman – Nat. Philharmonic Orch. / Charles Gerhardt – HDTT [var. formats including hi-res 4.0 Blu-ray Audio and PCM stereo PCM & DSD from] 53:57 ****1/2:

New from HDTT is a transfer from commercial reel complete with the option of discrete four channel surround sound of one the wonderful series of RCA LPs from 1970s devoted to music for film compiled by Charles Gerhardt and recorded in splendid sound in London by Kenneth Wilkinson.  This release is devoted to music by Franz Waxman (1906-1967).

Waxman (originally Franz Wachsmann) was born in Germany and had an early success in film music in with the orchestration of the score for Sternberg’s 1930 movie, “The Blue Angel” and its subsequent conducting for the soundtrack; this was followed by work for Fritz Lang, contributing to the score for “Liliom” made in Paris in 1933 after Lang and Waxman had to leave Germany.  Both of the above were produced by Erich Pommer whose next project for Fox Films brought him and Waxman to the United States where Waxman made his home for the rest of his life.  Here he composed and performed prolifically, founding the annual Los Angeles Music Festival which ran from 1947 to 1966 and gave rise to many world, US or West Coast premieres.

Waxman did not devote himself solely to music for the cinema and wrote much for the concert hall, some of which has been recorded.  Among these the Sinfonietta for Strings and Timpani (1955),  Joshua (1959) and The Song of  Terezin (1965) are possibly the best known.  However, the substantial body of music for the cinema is Waxman’s main legacy. Over a career of a little more than thirty years he wrote scores firstly for MGM, followed by Warner before writing to individual commission.  IMDB gives Waxman 174 credits as composer.

The collection on this release gives a rewarding cross-section of material, from the early The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) to Taras Bulba (1962).  Carefully crafted, highly inventive and boldly energetic, Waxman’s music underpinned so much of the action and, especially in this selection, stands perfectly on its own in its excerpts from the complete scores.  Charles Gerhardt and the collection of top London musicians known as the National Philharmonic produce readings of quality and power, and the recordings made in July 1974 made by Kenneth Wilkinson and produced by George Korngold come up very well indeed.  The saxophone solo at the start of A Place in the Sun is a startling moment, and the grandeur of Prince Valiant and stifling tragedy of Sunset Boulevard project especially well.

I sampled the surround version, four channels which really does take advantage of the medium. The depth of sound-stage and the orchestra in an accentuated arc make for some very exciting listening.  HDTT has waved its usual wand over the commercial reel and produced first-class sound, beefier than the CD release (which itself was encoded with Dolby surround) which belies its age of over forty years. Highly recommended for part of the cream of Hollywood history.


01 Waxman – Prince Valiant
02 Waxman – A Place in the Sun
03 Waxman – The Bride of Frankenstein
04 Waxman – Sunset Boulevard
05 Waxman – Old Acquaintance
06 Waxman – Rebecca
07 Waxman – The Philadelphia Story
08 Waxman – Taras Bulba

—Peter Joelson

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