The Kennedy Center

Franz Waxman


American composer Franz Waxman was born in Upper Silesia, Germany, on December 24, 1906.  After pursuing a career in banking for two years, he completed his musical studies in Dresden and Berlin. In 1929 he was hired in Germany by a film studio to arrange and conduct Frederick Holländer's score for The Blue Angel. The success of that film produced additional film work, ultimately leading to his emigration to Los Angeles in 1934.
Waxman's arrival in Hollywood was timely; film music was just developing into a major art form and his fluent, highly Romantic style, coupled with a gift for melodic writing, was ideally suited to the medium. He quickly took his place as one of the most important composers of Hollywood's golden age. His first original film score, The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), re-used many times in other horror films of the period, set the style of scores for that genre. He went on to compose for some of Hollywood's classic films, including Captains Courageous (1937), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Rebecca (1940), Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1941), Prince Valiant (1954), The Nun's Story (1959) and Taras Bulba (1962). In all, he worked on 144 films and received 12 Academy Award nominations, winning twice in consecutive years for Sunset Boulevard (1950) and A Place in the Sun (1951).
The most important of Waxman's concert works are the oratorio Joshua (1959) and the dramatic song cycle The Song of Terezin (1965), his last composition. Perhaps his most famous work is the Carmen Fantasie, for violin and orchestra based on themes from Bizet's opera, originally composed for the film Humoresque in 1947. Also a gifted conductor, Waxman founded the Los Angeles International Music Festival in 1948 and for the next 20 years presented important premières of works by Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Vaughan Williams, Walton, Schoenberg and many others. In 1962 he was the first American to conduct major orchestras in the Soviet Union.
He died February 24, 1967, in Los Angeles at the age of 60.
New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edition
Oxford Music Online
Franz Waxman


  • Carmen Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra