Elegy for Anne Frank

Kevin McCutcheon (piano), Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Christopher Wilkins, conductor

The horrors of World War II created so much great music both then and now, everything from Reich’s Different Trains and Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima back to Strauss’s Metamorphosen (written to mourn the wrong side) and Yizkor {In Memoriam} by Odeon Partos, who fled Nazi-ravaged Hungary to become one of the first major Israeli composers. Now, thanks to the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music on Naxos American Classics, add to that list two more great works I hadn’t encountered until now by Lukas Foss: one from then and one from recent times. Song of Anguish for baritone and orchestra, composed in 1945 (at which point Foss was 23 years old), takes as its point of departure Isaiah’s prophesies about “cities being wasted without inhabitant.” The more personal Elegy for Anne Frank for piano and orchestra from 1989 which can be performed with or without a narrator reciting from Anne Frank’s famous Diary is even more poignant in the wordless version recorded here. Foss was just honored with our Letter of Distinction last week. Here are two more reasons why this refugee from Nazi Germany (another one of their losses) is one of our greatest composers!

—FJO