Franz Waxman's distinguished Hollywood career culminated in Oscars on two consecutive years for Sunset Boulevard and A Place in the Sun in 1950 and 1951 respectively, cementing his reputation as the composer of choice for Hollywood melodrama. In 1944, then a new recruit at Warner Bros, Waxman produced one of his most melodramatic scores for Mr Skeffington. The film is now a largely overlooked Bette Davis vehicle, which gained notoriety at the time for the lead actress' flamboyant tantrums, and sunk into semi-obscurity thereafter (despite a great cast, including Claude Rains, and a sizzlingly good script). As the in-depth booklet notes point out, Waxman's music here leans heavily on Richard Strauss (whom Waxman often saw conduct at the Dresden Opera House), and avoids the Shostakovich comparisons of much of his other work. The passionate finale, an eight-minute tour de force, is itself worthy of Strauss' operas, and the whole score has an operatic feel, enhanced by Waxman's characteristic unity of scoring and thoughtful use of musical motifs. The orchestration departs from European opera house traditions and adds an American flavour with its use of saxophone as well as a novachord and electric violin. Even when writing for old-fashioned melodrama, Waxman couldn't help being an innovator. The players of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra are stalwart advocates of some unjustly neglected music. In bringing more Waxman to light, restorer John Morgan and his team continue to remind us of the extraordinary wealth of fine music written during Hollywood's golden age. --Mark Walker
WAXMAN: Mr. Skeffington by William Stromberg
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