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PublisherFidelio Music Publishing
for alto and piano
The Book of Joshua (the sixth book of the Old Testament) relates the story of Joshua’s assumption of leadership of the Israelites after the death of Moses. Surrounded by unfriendly states, Joshua begins their pacification by a campaign against Jericho. He sends two spies, who find shelter in the house of the harlot Rahab. The siege against Jericho is successful, and the remaining unfriendly kings are conquered. Joshua arbitrates the disputes over boundaries, pacifies the neighboring states, and eventually dies – serene in the knowledge of having served his Lord.
The form of the oratorio Joshua is generally that of the classical type. Arias, choruses, and instrumental interludes are connected by a spoken narration. In the fugue which concludes Part 1, four additional trumpets are stationed in the auditorium to suggest the effect of the seven trumpets which, according to the Bible, produced the sound that devastated the walls of Jericho.
After the world premiere, John Rosenfield wrote in the Dallas Morning News:
“Mr. Waxman disavows adherence to any pattern of composition. He really should aver loyalty to all for Joshua has a range of Bach to Bartok. He writes with utter spontaneity. The aptness of style for the purpose on hand is so compelling that he does not scruple to sound like somebody else – as what good composer didn’t? So you can hear music of classical serenity and transparency and music of intricacy and thickness arias that are composed “through,” and arias de capo with obvious versification.”
Eugene Lewis wrote in the Dallas Times Herald:
“Of all the musical works which this city has heard premiere, the one which was given its first performance anywhere in Dallas last night seems to hold the most promise for popular immortality. For Franz Waxman’s Oratorio Joshua is big. It is big in its musical forces, big in its impact, big in its ideas and exaltation.”
The Oratorio is dedicated to the memory of Alice Waxman and was first performed on May 23, 1959 with the Temple Emanu-El Choir, conducted by Samuel Adler, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, in the sanctuary of the Temple in Dallas, Texas, under the composer’s direction. Mack Harrell was the baritone soloist. At the West Coast premiere, at the Los Angeles Music Festival on June 1, 1961, Donald Gramm and Shirley Verrett were the soloists, with the Roger Wagner Chorale and Norman Corwin was again the narrator.
Waxman’s Joshua was recorded by the Prague Philharmonia and Prague Philharmonic choir, James Sedares, conductor in Dvorak Hall (July 30-Auigust 2nd, 2004). Maximilian Schell (narrator), Rod Gilfry, baritone (Moses, Joshua), Ann Hallenberg, mezzo-soprano (Rahab), Peter Buchi and Patrick Poole, tenors (The Spies), recorded in Vienna Austria (November 21, 2004).