Peyton Place CD Review
by James Southall
Peyton Place **** 1/2
Varese Sarabande 302 066 070 2
18 tracks - 50:10
Franz Waxman's scores show a great variety from one to another, perhaps
more so than those by any other Golden Age composer. The ability to leap
between projects that were seemingly miles apart was not a skill unique
to Waxman -- but to write scores for them that also seemed miles apart
may have been. Waxman's sweeping, beautiful score for Peyton Place
is about as far removed from something like Prince Valiant or The
Spirit of St. Louis as you can get, even though they were written in
roughly the same period.
While the film itself may now seem dated, Waxman's score for Peyton
Place is as vital and beautiful today as it ever was. Perhaps it has
aged so well because it wasn't necessarily composed with the sensibilities
of most scores of the time: Rather than writing music that rigorously reflected
the on-screen action, Waxman wrote a score that plays more as a tone poem,
reflecting the events in broad, colorful dramatic strokes. This concept
is more in keeping with the European film composers who would follow him
a decade or so down the line.
Waxman's themes for Peyton Place are instantly attractive; needless
to say, many of them are played by violins straining to reach their upper
registers, with the subtlest homophonic horns as accompaniment. But despite
being lush and beautiful, this music never comes across as even vaguely
sentimental or melodramatic -- this is where Waxman exceeds the norm. An
extended cue like the seven-minute "Hilltop Scene" doesn't once
descend into cheap soppiness, retaining an air of dignity and charm throughout.
The more intense parts of the story receive appropriately dramatic cues:
"The Rape" and "Chase in the Woods," for example, are
heartbreaking despite their brutality; the contrast with "Summer Montage,"
the cue that falls between them, heightens their impact yet further.
This new recording, with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra led by
Edwin Paling and conducted by film composer Frederic Talgorn, is excellent.
Producer Robert Townson's preferred concert hall-style recording technique
has attracted criticism to his other albums, but it undeniably works beautifully
with Peyton Place; the lush, sweeping music flows around the listener
just as a score like this one should. As an additional bonus, this recording
marks the first time that the entire score has ever been available, including
four cues (totaling about ten minutes) that have never before been released.
It is difficult to understate the beauty inherent in pieces like "After
School" and "Swimming Scene," and as such, Peyton Place
comes highly-recommended. Waxman is not one of the better-represented Golden
Age composers, so this album will hopefully generate his work more attention
amongst younger film music fans. It's a wonderful score, given full justice
by this terrific recording. -- James Southall