Sinfonietta for String Orchestra & Timpani (1955)/Waxman

October 2, 2011

Christopher Palmer liner notes are an excellent source of information and the story of how this work came about so quickly goes to the roots of Waxman’s Hollywood soundtrack writing. It was composed in 1955 on a boat-trip from New York to Genoa with his old friend Bruno Walter, conductor extraordinaire. Franz spent the voyage locked up in his cabin and composed the three movement thirteen minute work for Liebermann, the person who commissioned the sinfonietta. Apparently the piece had slipped through the cracks and had to be done at the last minute, nothing out of the ordinary for a film score composer. The work is divided into three parts; allegro, lento, and scherzo. The opening begins much like a Brahms orchestral work with a Germanic sound to the three long notes before it offers a lively upbeat melody in a major key somewhat gypsy like with lower register strings offering harmony along with the timpani making its presence felt. The movement shifts gears offering a second melody this time from the cellos and bass with the strings offering harmony. The bright melody is repeated a second time from the violins, a bit of harmony and is repeated a third time before the movement concludes. The lento begins again like Brahms with a melancholy theme from the cellos and a steady beat from the timpani. The theme from the cello sounded similar to an Odnes Martenot something Franz was very familiar with having used three of them in his Bride of Frankenstein (1935) score. The scherzo begins with an agitated major key melody from the strings, more activity from the timpani and a short statement from the cello. The theme turns dissonant before the melody is repeated. The work ends re-stating the theme once again.

This is another somewhat forgotten work by the two time Oscar winning composer that certainly needs to be explored. Available as download from Amazon.com the coupling with Rozsa and Herrmann material is a good combination. The recording is good being done in a digital format from beginning to end with a lack of dynamic range as previously noted on the Herrmann recording  and as mentioned the liner notes are excellent.

Track Listing:

1… Allegro (4:57)

2… Lento (4:10)

3… Scherzo (4:35)

Total Time is 13:42

Isaiah Jackson conducts the Berlin Symphony Orchestra

Koch # 3-7152-2HI

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