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Brian Wigman
Classical Net, June 2013

The work is stunning in both its beauty and utter simplicity. Naxos and James Jordan have made the right choice in choosing the chamber version for release…It has a deep, personal sense of intimacy, and the sparse but masterful scoring allows a great feeling of introspection and emotional involvement. Whitbourn knows exactly what he wants to do with this text, using the chorus, Zukerman, and his instrumentalists to tell the story in such a way that it just feels right. Zukerman sings beautifully, with real emotion, and the chorus clearly relishes the opportunity to convey such powerful words to us through music. James Jordan does a great job at shading the text and music dramatically.

Whitbourn deserves a lot of credit for bringing this to us in such a heartfelt, genuinely touching way. If you care about Anne Frank, contemporary music, or the way we see life in general, this is an essential purchase. Thanks to all involved. © 2013 Classical Net Read complete review

Steve Arloff
MusicWeb International, March 2013

Anne Frank has become a kind of metaphor or shorthand for representing the holocaust and, indeed, all needless destruction of human life caused by Man’s brutal excesses. For this libretto Melanie Challenger has taken 14 passages from throughout the diary and where necessary has changed the word order but has kept the essential sense of each episode. What emerges is an extremely powerful work which “stops you in your tracks” as Whitbourn confessed when hearing Anne’s cousin Bernd Elias say how happy she’d have been to have heard it - as happy as he remembered her when last he saw her.

It will not be lost on listeners that this chamber version of the choral setting uses piano, violin, cello and clarinet, the instruments that Messiaen used for his Quartet for the end of time, these being the only ones available in the prisoner of war camp in which he was incarcerated. As Whitbourn says they are instruments associated with Jewish culture and despite the fact that he made no overt attempt to incorporate Jewish melodies he did draw on their “melodic contours and expressions”. The clarinet is a particular help in this regard. The music so perfectly fits the words that there is never any feeling of a shoehorning of either.

The whole work flows quite brilliantly. Just as with Anne there is light as well as sadness throughout and moments of humour…

Not having heard the full orchestral version I can only say that this chamber version seems so apt with a spare feel to it that so accurately mirrors the poignancy. There is such fantastic musicality that when the voices are unaccompanied one is unaware that there are no instruments playing. Arianna Zuckerman has a perfect voice for the role of Anne as it has a bell-like clarity and a kind of youthful vulnerability that makes everything so incredibly heartrending. The Westminster Williamson Voices are wonderfully eloquent. The four instrumentalists are superb in creating a wonderfully evocative canvas on which this amazing work unfolds. This is an extremely important addition to the corpus of material connected with Anne Frank and, by association, the whole of holocaust literature. It demands to be heard and enjoyed in its own right and as a tribute to a brave young girl who just wanted to be allowed to live. It is an emotional journey but one that will leave the listener both moved and proud of her legacy. © 2013 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Shirley Ratcliffe
Choir & Organ, March 2013

Annelies is the full name of Anne Frank, from whose diary librettist Melanie Challenger has created a moving text which combines with James Whitbourn’s music to make one of the most striking works about oppressed people and the reality of war that I have heard. Whitbourn’s devastatingly beautiful and restrained treatment of the subject makes it all the more poignant. The descriptive instrumental writing, brilliantly performed, provides an interesting counterpoint to the vocal lines. The superb voices of the singers and soloist, with a combination of drama and humour, movingly relate the events. Director James Jordan’s instinctive understanding of the score makes this a profound and emotionally charged experience not to be missed. © 2013 Choir & Organ

Dianne Wells
The WholeNote, March 2013

This recording…offers such a poignant, personal characterization that one is immediately drawn into an almost unbearable intimacy with the tragic events…soprano Arianna Zukerman sings with a supremely controlled tone that never strays from pure beauty…

The choir, Westminster Williamson Voices led by James Jordon, is superb and they are flawless in the delivery of passages…This first choral setting of The Diary of Anne Frank certainly proves worthy. © 2013 The WholeNote Read complete review, February 2013

Whitbourn’s music…whose chamber version here receives its world première recording…deserves to become much more familiar…because it not only bears witness to a now-familiar tale that has new resonance with every news story of hatred, intolerance and mass murder, but also is highly expressive in its own right. © 2013 Read complete review

Steven Bergman
EDGE New York, February 2013

British composer James Whitbourn (1963- ) has created a choral setting of the diary for soprano, choir, and seven musicians. “Annelies” is an extensive and ambitious work…“Annelies” is a somber piece that, though well composed and performed, is a dark and brooding composition not suited for the casual listen.

The musicians are excellent. The Lincoln Trio, along with clarinet soloist Bharat Chandra, convey the torment of this child and her family as their lives oscillate between hope and despair, leading up to their tragic end.

The recording quality is high…Even though it is difficult to “enjoy” the piece, Whitbourn is to be commended for his musical interpretation of this important text. © 2013 EDGE New York Read complete review

Terry Blain
BBC Music Magazine, February 2013

The writing for soprano soloist…Arianna Zukerman…choir and skeletal piano accompaniment in ‘Life in Hiding’ is hauntingly effective. Whitbourn’s loving imitation of Bachian chorale in ‘Coruage’, and the poignant lyrical intertwining of voices and instruments in ‘Kyrie-Sinfonia’, are…moments when words and music meld impressively together.

The performance as a whole…is well-prepared and palpably committed, as befits a premiere recording. © 2013 BBC Music Magazine

Caroline Gill
Gramophone, February 2013

It is difficult to look at the cover of the CD of a setting of excerpts from The Diary of Anne Frank…by a composer most notable for his works for stage and screen, without a sense of trepidation that what is contained therein might register unacceptably high on the sentimentality scale. It is having that fear so near the forefront of one’s mind, though, that makes the entirety of this oratorio such a pleasant surprise… It incorporates a considerable number of elements that are skilled enough as to bring pleasure in their own right – the Williamson Voices…sing with a precision and finesse…complementing the exhilarating performances of the soloists and orchestra.

…the greatest accomplishment here is that James Whitbourn has created some music of great beauty, without trespassing into the realm of the cloying. Not only does that release one to listen to the work’s oases of soaring melody (both in the vocal and solo instrumental sections) with impunity but leaves the integrity of such an important piece of literature, and history, intact. © 2013 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Brian Wilson - Download News 2013/3
MusicWeb International, February 2013

This is timeless music, setting extracts from the diaries of Anne Frank. The music is uplifting…

Performances are exemplary. There’s an excellent booklet and the recording is very good indeed. © 2013 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, January 2013

The performance is exceptional. James Jordan directs, Arianna Zukerman does her part justice as the soprano soloist, the Westminster Williamson Voices and the Lincoln Trio with Bharat Chandra on clarinet all come through with expressive eloquence.

The music is straightforward post/neo-romantic modern in a tonal mode. And it does not attempt to create a largeness as much as a literal intimacy in keeping with the solitary, cloaked-hidden advent of the events Anne Frank underwent. And that works very well.

It is marvelously done, a choral masterwork of our times I would suggest. The ending represents such tragedy in such a beautiful way I found the tears coming to my eyes.

Annelies reminds us touchingly and very musically how our difficulties pale in comparison to Anne and her fellow victims. If you can get only one choral work this month or even this year, think seriously about this one. © 2013 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review

Andrew Stewart
Sinfini Music, January 2013

Conductor James Jordan, soprano soloist Arianna Zukerman and their fellow performers invest uncommon care and touching devotion to the job of recording Whitbourn’s tuneful cantata…

Thanks to Whitbourn’s sophisticated harmonic shifts, strategic melodic subversions and moments of silence, Annelies avoids sentimentality while exploring sentiment…the composer proves a painfully honest and compelling teller of Anne’s story, carefully mixing his pastiche of dance band, klezmorim and musical theatre styles with Bach chorales, romantic instrumental interludes and plainsong to evoke searing images of personal loss and a continent’s descent into barbarity. © 2013 Sinfini Music Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2013

The story of the Jewish family that hid itself away for almost the whole of the Second World war was encapsulated in the book The Diary of Anne Frank. To a libretto of Melanie Challenger using words from Annelies’s diary, James Whitburn has created a choral setting here recorded for the first time in its chamber version. In fourteen sections it is, in effect, an abridged version of the book from the time they go into hiding, to the capture and the concentration camp. To give this message of hope widespread circulation, Whitbourn has opted for music that could be described as a ‘pop’ classical cantata. It will thus appeal to a very wide audience. Using a range of musical styles from religious chant through to popular song, it bridges the worlds of the church and the concert hall. Originally scored for full orchestra and premiered as part of the UK’s National Holocaust Day, this first appearance on disc was recorded in the United States using, in place of the orchestra, a clarinet, piano, violin and cello. As the composer states, it is the same quartet as used by Messiaen when writing his Quatuor pour la fin du temps. It too was written in his prison camp, though musically the similarity ends there. Whitbourn was the disc’s producer and he must have been pleased by the elegant playing of The Lincoln Trio and the singing - in many modes - from the Westminster Williamson Voices, while the ethereal quality of the soprano, Arianna Zukerman, is an ideal choice for the solo role that brings the work to its peaceful conclusion. The sound quality is very good. © 2013 David’s Review Corner

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