Sunset Boulevard: The Classic Film Scores of Franz Waxman

Sunset Boulevard: The Classic Film Scores of Franz Waxman

by Franz Waxman
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This is a superb entry in RCA Victor's "Classic Film Scores" series of releases from the early '70s, and it's no surprise that it has endured in the catalog longer than virtually any other part of that series. Opening with Franz Waxman's score for Prince Valiant, which sounds a great deal like the music of Alexander Zemlinsky, you get Waxman at his most extroverted and joyful, working in a very traditional classical/orchestral mode. But with the score for A Place in the Sun, he shifts into a moody, ever so slightly jazz-tinged work, featuring a superb performance by Ronnie Chamberlain on the piece's plaintive alto saxophone part, which causes some listeners to mistake this score for Leonard Bernstein's music for On the Waterfront -- that piece also includes a fugal section that is virtually identical to a section in the second movement of Shostakovich's "Symphony No. 11," a piece of pure happenstance since Shostakovich could not have ever seen the 1951 movie. For many listeners of the original LP version of this release, a highlight is the centerpiece seven-minute section of music from The Bride of Frankenstein, depicting the creation of the female monster -- the latter piece also contains music that, in the hands of Waxman's arranger/composer colleague Clifford Vaughan, was recycled into the various Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers adaptations that came from Universion in the 1930s, and at the time it was the most distinctive element of the movie (other than lobby cards and stills) that one could actually own; it's played with a mix of elegance and grandeur that evokes images of Richard Wagner's music at its most distinctive. The other major highlights include the deeply evocative, bracing, and ironic scoring for Sunset Boulevard and Waxman's dark, psychologically driven music for Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca, with The Philadelphia Story lightening the mood a bit with its Gershwin-esque charm, and the late-career exoticism of Taras Bulba closing the CD. The sound is excellent throughout, and the overall disc may be -- with the volume devoted to Bernard Herrmann's work -- the best of this entire series.

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