The Silver Chalice/Waxman

October 14, 2006

 

The 1954 Victor Saville produced and directed film is the 3rd entry in the Elmer Bernstein Film Collection Box. Garnering 8 out 12 nominations, “On The Waterfront” proved to be the big winner in 1954 including picture, actor, director, and supporting actress. Both “On The Waterfront” and “Silver Chalice” were nominated for best score but the award ended up going to “High And The Mighty”, the Dimitri Tiomkin soundtrack. Starring Paul Newman, Pier Angeli Jack Palance, and Virginia Mayo the Thomas B. Costain novel was done for Warner Brothers. As it would turn out this would be the last film that Saville directed and Paul Newman took an ad out in Variety at the time apologizing for his performance! It has even been rumored that he has managed to keep the film off AMC! The story takes place in first century Rome and tells of the commission of Silver Chalice by Joseph to bear the figures of Christ and the disciples. While the film essentially failed the score did not. Waxman, who was very interested in composing concert pieces in his later years found this work to be one of his favorites; likely because it afforded him the opportunity to right a full symphonic work. One of the drawbacks of this particular recording is the fact that it is a scant 37 minutes, while in the film there is over two hours of material. One has to understand that the goal in 1975 was to create an lp album which was exactly in the time range. Hopefully at some time in the future there will be a legitimate release of the original material with its larger orchestra. For now this is your choice and it has a lot going for it.

The “Main Title” begins with a brass fanfare followed by a crescendo (2) with cymbals and this leads us into the theme. At the end of the track a single oboe plays the love theme related to Deborra (Pier Angeli). This very nicely slides into the second track “New Father” which opens with a woodwind statement and is background music for the adopting of Basil (Paul Newman) into a Greek family. “Little Helena” is a delicate flute theme for Helena (Virginia Mayo) who appears throughout the film. “Simon the Magician” has similiar chords to ones used in Sunset Boulevard if you listen closely (Norma’s theme) as well as a pretty darn cool dissonant Russian style track of mystic and magic things. The “Finale” gives a revisit to all of the major themes in the score: Deborra, Luke, and Holy Grail and would likely be the one track that someone would choose if they were making a compilation. Overall this work is extremely proud, religious, and quite symphonic.

This is one of many many scores which is quite difficult to judge. Keep in mind it is a re-recording and a lot of material has been passed up. On the other hand, it does contain 25 more minutes than the twelve minute suite that Varese issued as part of a (4) volume Waxman set from 1994. And it is also part of a (12) CD set so getting it separately at least at this time is impossible. In this reviewers opinion it is not Waxman’s best work but it is certainly a good one and a welcome addition to the Bernstein collection.

Golden Scores Rating is (**1/2)

Recording Engineer is Richard Lewzey

Conducted by Elmer Bernstein

Released in 1975

Track Listing:

1. Main Title (04:11)

2. New Father (02:34)

3. Little Helena (02:23)

4. Basil The Slave (02:35)

5. Luke (03:49)

6. Simon The Magician (04:40)

7. The Sacred Cup (03:47)

8. The Chase (01:22)

9. Basil Loves Helena (04:23)

10. Battle (02:04)

11. Deborra’s Lament (01:54)

12. Finale (02:49)

ALL TRACKS: The Silver Chalice (1954) / composed by Franz Waxman

Total time is 37:06

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