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ClassicsOnline Home » FOSS: Elegy for Anne Frank / Song of Anguish / BEASER: The Heavenly Feast
By Uncle Dave Lewis
One wouldn’t normally consider Lukas Foss as a composer of Hebraic-themed music given his investment in arch-Americana and more experimental kinds of endeavors. However, it was because Foss and his family were Jewish that they fled Europe in 1937 and the future composer first made his way to America. One of his first great successes was the orchestral song cycle Song of Songs (1947), based on the Biblical love poem of that name. This entry in Naxos’ Milken Archive series, Lukas Foss: Elegy for Anne Frank, covers four works of Foss that reach into Foss’ Hebraic roots and adds another by composer Robert Beaser as a bonus. Foss has described the title work, Elegy for Anne Frank (1989), as "one of the most soulful things I have ever done," and soulful it genuinely is. It is a spare, relatively simple movement for piano and orchestra conceived as a narrated piece featuring extracts from Anne Frank’s diaries, but over time it has gained popularity without the narration. Here pianist Kevin McCutcheon essays the sensitive solo part, which signifies the character of Anne; at its close, the piece drifts into the ether with an unfinished quality. Two of these Foss compositions are early; although dated from its orchestral version of 1953, Song of Anguish dates from 1945 and was originally a cantata with piano and dance elements; it is like a dark version of Foss’ cantata The Prairie (1944), set to texts of Isaiah the prophet rather than Carl Sandburg. Its theme of warning against a society out of touch with its soul remains a prescient one. Adon Olam (1947) is a setting of an eleventh century liturgical text for tenor, chorus, and organ in the harmonic vein of Song of Songs; it is very attractive and at times almost feels a little like "high holy minimalism," though is busier texturally and extroverted in approach. Finally, from Foss’ period based in Jerusalem comes Lammdeni (1974) for chorus and percussion; it takes some of the freewheeling playfulness of Foss’ Paradigm (1968) and grafts it onto a more practical template, utilizing some of the most ancient surviving Hebrew musical texts as a starting off point. It is gleeful and relaxed, not dissimilar to Carl Orff’s Schulwerk in some respects, but gleeful and not as rigidly structured as Orff; a delight.
American Record Guide
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FOSS: Elegy for Anne Frank / Song of Anguish / BEA...