New Naxos Recording Features Westminster Williamson Voices
Westminster Williamson Voices, conducted by James Jordan, is featured in the world-premiere recording of the chamber version of James Whitbourn’s Annelies, the first major choral setting of The Diary of Anne Frank, which has been released on the Naxos label and received positive reviews.
The first major choral setting of Anne’s Frank’s diary takes the teenager’s remarkable and penetrating observations, written while hiding in an Amsterdam attic, as the basis of its extraordinary and moving libretto by Melanie Challenger. Described by the Daily Telegraph as “woundingly beautiful” Whitbourn’s music for the piece reflects upon the sounds that Anne heard from her hiding place, for example the Westerkerk bells and tunes heard on the radio in the Annexe, as well as music that represents Anne’s Jewish and German heritage. The recording also features soprano Arianna Zukerman, The Lincoln Trio and clarinetist Bharat Chandra.
“I have had the privilege of working with these fine young musicians for a number of years and have come to learn the true value of the methods of their conductor, James Jordan,” says Whitbourn about the ensemble and its conductor. “Their preparation for this recording has been one of total immersion, not only in the text and the music but also in wanting to learn the historical context and the philosophical questions that arise from attempting to create a work of art from so devastating a tragedy as the Holocaust. In this respect, they were helped by direct contact with a soloist, Arianna Zukerman, who not only possesses a voice and musicianship of great quality but whose own family was severely affected by the horrors of the Holocaust, her grandfather having survived Auschwitz and her grandmother having survived the Łódź Ghetto and subsequently a work camp in Berlin. As I came to know the members of Williamson Voices better, I learned that hers was not the only family with a connection to the Holocaust.”
“I believe the fruits of this immersive preparation can be heard in the choral sound on this disc and shines through in the honesty of the singing. All these vocal artists are complemented by some outstanding instrumental playing from the Lincoln Trio and the clarinetist Bharat Chandra. Their commitment to the chamber needs of this piece and their ability to engage with the young voices of Westminster Choir College as members of a chamber ensemble are some of the qualities that made the recording sessions so rich for those involved. In the end, though, it is the text itself that is of such strength that it finds a way to leave the indelible mark of that young girl whose wisdom and perception can teach us all.”
Westminster Williamson Voices, a 40-voice choir founded by its conductor, James Jordan, has established itself as a voice of composers of our time and has been acclaimed for its creative programming and collaborations with other art forms.
James Jordan is the author of more than 30 books and DVDs on all aspects of the choral art. He is acclaimed for his two books, Evoking Sound and The Conductor’s Gesture, among others, as well as his Naxos recording with the Westminster Williamson Voices Living Voices: The Music of James Whitbourn. Dr. Jordan is professor and conductor at Westminster Choir College, where he conducts Westminster Schola Cantorum and the Westminster Williamson Voices.
The work was recorded by Princeton-area recording engineer John Baker in May 2012 at the Princeton Meadow Event Center.
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