Anne Frank-inspired concert at Ravinia
Members of the Lincoln Trio (from left) Desiree Ruhstrat, David Cunliffe, both of Highland Park, and Marta Aznavoorian of Glencoe.
‘Annelies,’ choral setting of The Diary of Anne Frank
3:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24
Bennett Gordon Hall, Ravinia Festival, Highland Park
Updated: February 20, 2013 12:30PM
Anne Frank died at the age of 15 in a Nazi concentration camp, but her diary, left behind when she and her family were arrested in Amsterdam by German police, has made her name a household word.
The dairy has been published in more than 60 languages and her tale has been dramatized on Broadway, in a Hollywood film and numerous television films and documentaries through the years.
A constellation of musicians will present one of the most recent tributes to her memory, a choral setting by British composer James Whitbourn of her diary at the Ravinia Festival Sunday afternoon in Bennett Gordon Hall. The title of the work is “Annelise,” which is the young girl’s birth name.
Scored for piano trio, clarinet, soprano and chorus, the Ravinia program will star clarinetist Bharat Chandra, soprano Arianna Zukerman and the Lincoln Trio, violin Desiree Ruhstrat, celloist David Cunliffe and pianist Marta Aznavoorian. The Chicago Children’s Choir will sing.
The program is sponsored by Mesirow Financial, a l consulting firm which originated in Highland Park. “A number of different stories have to be told to understand how this came to be,” said Richard Mesirow of Highland Park, vice president and son of Norman Mesirow, the founder of the firm.
“To me it is an example of the Yiddish word ‘bashert,’ which means ‘meant to be.’”
“I heard the Lincoln Trio at Northmoor Country Club,” he began. “Dale Pinkert presented them. They stayed for dinner and we had a chance to talk.” Mesirow also saw them at the Ravinia Festival, and later again at Northmoor.
Meanwhile, Mesirow Financial had constructed an auditorium in their downtown office, which holds about 250 people and was meant for corporate meetings.
When Cedille Records, the local label specializing in recording Chicago area classical music, became a Mesirow client, the financial firm used that space for a benefit concert for Cedille.
The program included violinist Rachel Barton Pine, soprano Patrice Michaels and the Lincoln Trio. “It was a lovely evening, a great success,” Mesirow said. The next morning, Veda Levin, a senior member of the firm, said “Does anyone remember Texaco Presents? Why don’t we do Mesirow Financial Presents?” And the idea was born.
Fast forward to the Four Seasons hotel and a benefit for Merit School of Music. “The Lincoln Trio was playing and Desiree came up to me and said that Ravinia was interested in programmig ‘Annelise’ but the piece needed to be recorded,” Meisrow said. “Welz Kauffman and I shook hands and it was agreed.”
By an amazing coincidence Whitbourn the composer had gone to school in England with David Cunliffe, cellist with the Lincoln Trio. “He was ahead of me at the Skinners’ Grammar School for Boys,” Cunliffe explained. “There weren’t many musicians there and he influenced me in my musical studies.”
A while back the composer had contacted the cellist on Facebook and their friendship was renewed. “He’s a brilliant guy” Cunliffe said. “He was BBC producer for the Queen Mother’s funeral and does a lot of other royal events.”
Whitbourn’s choral piece for soprano and chorus had been written for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and was performed in 2005. In 2009 he arranged it for chamber ensemble and it was performed in the The Hague in the Netherlands.
“It was Desiree who got everything off the ground here,” said Cunliffe, of his dynamic wife. “She asked Richard Mesirow for financial support and he gave it.”
Soprano Arianna Zukerman, daughter of violinist Pinchas Zukerman and flutist Eugenia Zukerman, was soloist for the chamber premiere in the Hague. “We performed it on what would have been Anne’s 80th birthday,” she said, when reached at her home in Washington, D. C. area, “and we were in a building that had been a Jewish synagogue.”
She reprised the soprano role with the Lincoln Trio and a choir in Princeton, New Jersey for the Naxos label and will sing in Bennett Gordon Hall Sunday.
“Anne’s story is so remarkable,” Zuckerman said. “My grandparents were Holocaust survivors, and I remember going to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam when I was a little girl. Everyone has a connection to her.”
Preparing for the recording she forged a bond with the Lincoln Trio and is looking forward to the program at Ravinia. “Performing ‘Annelies’ together is quite an intense experience,” she said. “We all felt we were meant to do this.”
Bashert? “Yes,” she replied, “bashert.”