Waxman: Objective Burma! (CD review)

William T. Stromberg, Moscow Symphony Orchestra. Naxos 8.557706.

In my alternate life as Review Editor for DVDTOWN.com, I've gotten to watch a multitude of movies, old and new, over the years, more than I could ever have seen in a theater. And it always amazes how well some of the old film scores hold up as purely entertaining musical experiences compared to many of today's over-hyped, nondescript screen music. Little in the revved-up tunes of an Iron Man V, Transformers VIII, or X-Men X seems nearly so colorful or graphic to me as the music for a film like director Raoul Walsh's 1945 war saga Objective, Burma!, with Errol Flynn, James Brown, William Prince, and George Tobias.

Franz Waxman (1906-1967) was one of Hollywood's premier composers in the Thirties through Sixties. If Max Steiner or Erich Wolfgang Korngold didn't write the score, you could be pretty sure Waxman did, things like Bride of Frankenstein, Philadelphia Story, Suspicion, Sunset Boulevard, A Place in the Sun, Rear Window, Mister Roberts, The Spirit of St. Louis; you get the idea.

In the case of Objective Burma! (score restored by John Morgan), it isn't necessary to have seen the movie to enjoy Waxman's music because just a glance at the segment headings gives one a pretty good idea of what's going on, the music filling in the rest. Titles like "Briefing in an Hour," "Take Off," "Jumping," "Killing the Sentry," "Two Came Back," "Burmese Village," "Missing the Plane," "At Night," "Invasion," and "The Camp--Finale" pretty much tell the story in themselves. Then, with Stromberg's direction and Morgan's reconstruction, lo and behold, the music actually sounds like the pictorial images we envision, rather like a series of miniature tone poems, much of it march-based, of course. Waxman never composed music to sell soundtrack albums but to convey the nuances of every film he wrote for; it's hardly a clever or revolutionary concept, just a practical one that pays off.

Originally released in the Marco Polo line in 2000 and now on the lower-priced Naxos label, Objective Burma! has the kind of sound we have come to expect from this source, William Stromberg and the Moscow Symphony having produced so many other good film recordings for the company. While the sonics are a bit less than completely open or transparent, plus a little distant, there is some relatively good, realistic stage depth and imaging involved. The sound has a pleasant overall bloom, reminiscent of live music even if it's not perfectly detailed.  Fans of film music will enjoy the disc.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa