Home > Reviews > THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK – Alfred Newman



Original Review by Craig Lysy

Francis Goodrich and Albert Kackett successfully adapted the novel Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl for the Broadway stage. When it secured both a Tony award and a Pulitzer prize Warner Brothers bought the film rights and hired George Stevens to produce and direct a film adaptation. Unknown Millie Perkins was hired for the title role and was supported by Otto Schilkraut (her father Otto), Gusti Huber (her mother Edith), Richard Beymer (her boyfriend Peter Van Daan) and Shelly Winters (Petronella Van Daan). The story is set in Nazi occupied Holland where Otto Frank and his family have decided to go into hiding, because of the increasing persecutions against Jews. A sympathetic local businessman Kraler and his assistant Miep prepare a hiding place in the rooms above their place of business, and arrange for the Franks and another family, the Van Daans, to stay there. Later on, they are joined by the dentist Dussel. Together, living in isolation, they try to avoid detection while praying for Holland to be liberated by the Allies. This poignant story explores the life of persecuted people living in constant fear as seen through the eyes of Anne. The film was a stunning commercial success and won critical acclaim, securing eight Academy nominations including best score for Alfred Newman, who lost to Rozsa’s magnificent effort Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.

Stevens selected renowned Alfred Newman for composer who stated upon being hired that the story resonated with him deeply. To acclimate himself he traveled to Holland and stood in the very room the Franks lived. He stated, “It was a strange experience . . . I had a feeling mixed of exultation and repugnance.” Newman said he was instructed by Stevens to not dwell on gloom, but to instead create an intimate soundscape, which focused on love and humor. Yet Newman took this further in that he found that he was most touched by the spirituality of the story. He states’ “ I didn’t try to illustrate, except in a few places, what was happening on the screen, so much as invoke in the music the remembrance of happier times, and the longings for the future – the longings of an oppressed people.” For the score Newman provides four themes; Anne’s Theme, which speaks to her innocence, her yearning for freedom as well as her playfulness as a young girl. The Faith Theme a solemn yet impassioned statement, which captures the spiritual essence of the story. The Hope Theme, which speaks to the kindled romance that arises between Anne and Peter as well as their yearnings for a normal life in a better world. Lastly, we have a Waltz Theme, which speaks to Anne’s romantic yearnings with Peter. I close by adding the observation as an avid collector that although Newman was a non-practicing Jew, some of his greatest efforts involved films which dealt with faith and spirituality, such as “The Song Of Bernadette” 1943, “The Robe” 1953 and “The Greatest Story Ever Told” 1965. It is as though he was able to tap into a deeply held reservoir of faith he possessed yet did not overtly demonstrate in his daily life.

As was customary in the 1950s, composers would create an Overture to play as a set piece prior to the start of the film to establish the mood. This Overtire stands as a score highlight and testimony to Newman’s mastery of his craft. “The Diary of Anne Frank (Overture)” opens dramatically with sparkling fanfare that is adorned with twinkling woodwinds and percussion. At 0:25 we segue into an full statement of Anne’s Theme atop lush violins, which usher in her gentile long flowing melodic line carried solely by strings, woodwinds and harp glissandi adornment. The piece concludes atop horns, which lead us upwards for a stirring grand finale with a flourish. Wow. Instead of feeling the weight of the impending drama, Newman’s music speaks to us of childhood innocence, our yearning for our dreams and of a carefree life unaffected by the surrounding harsh realities. The beauty of this passage cannot be understated.

“Families in Hiding” is a masterpiece cue and a woodwind lovers dream come true. It reveals the Franks and the Van Daans settling into their new quarters and a life in hiding. This cue is dominated by woodwinds that grace us with multiple solo statements and which feature beautiful interplay of three themes, the Faith Theme, Anne’s Theme and the Waltz Theme. We open with the Faith Theme, here performed with a religioso ambiance, which features beautiful and stirring statements by solo instruments including flute, English horn, oboe and violin. Next we have tender solo violin and woodwind statements of Anne’s Theme, which are answered with refined grace by the Faith Theme on strings. The cue achieves an apogee of sublime beauty when Anne’s Theme shifts to solo violin and is answered by woodwind counters. From this stirring thematic interplay arises the first statement of the Waltz Theme, which flows not with grand formality, but instead with an incredible lightness of being. The cue concludes pensively when the tolling bells of the local cathedral sound and the idyllic moment is lost to the reality of their dire circumstances.

“The First Day” reveals everyone enduring their first full day of captivity where they must sit or lay motionless to avoid alerting the people below to their presence. It is most ingenious how Newman scores this scene. He eschews any thematic development instead choosing to score the tension of their hiding with ambient orchestral colors consisting of tolling bells, which mark the passage of time, a low register pulsing rhythm, plaintive tonal statements by various solo woodwinds and violin, and an numbing unrelenting ostinato. This approach is brilliantly conceived and perfectly attenuated to the film’s imagery. In “The Captives” we see the terrible ordeal of other Jews being led away by the Gestapo. To suggest the pathos of the moment Newman uses plaintive strings to usher in a dirge-like minor modal rendering of the Faith Theme, which interplays with a tragic variant of Anne’s Theme. At 1:38 we have a scene change and segue into “Spring Is Coming” another score highlight where we see Anne contemplating the return of spring. Violins mark the yearning of the moment by introducing the lyrical Hope Theme, which just sparkles with its harp adornment. This stirring and uplifting line, which is embellished by solo violin statements, ascends with an impassioned joy, which is just breathtaking and tearful. I live for score moments such as these.

“Ericka” is a source cue written by Herms Niel, which reveals our families viewing a march of German troops past the factory. It is a pompous celebratory march, which belies the dark cruelty of the occupation. In “Date with Peter” we see Anne preparing with yearning anticipation for her first date with Peter. Newman scores the scene with a free-flowing statement of his Waltz Theme. The waltz dances with classic form and rhythm, which features interludes by woodwinds and sparkling glockenspiel as we share in Anne’s secret hopes. I must say that the beauty, grace and joie de vivre expressed by this piece is just wonderful! “The First Kiss” is poorly titled, as it does not speak to Anne and Peter’s first kiss, but instead of Otto surprising Anne with the gift of a diary. The cue is a score highlight and features beautiful interplay between Anne’s Theme and the Faith Theme. Newman provides us with several tender passages where we are graced with thematic expressions by solo instruments including flute, oboe, English horn and violin, often with contrapuntal lines. These passages are brilliantly conceived and just stirring in their innate and intricate beauty. The cue concludes up-tempo and alla marcia, which ends darkly with the finality of tolling bells.

“The Dearness of You, Peter” reveals Anne and Peter fleeing their arguing parents to the attic and sharing a last tender and intimate moment. Peter despairs of their circumstances as Anne tries to lift his spirits with her enduring hope for a brighter future. This extended cue is a score highlight, which offers a wondrous interplay of the Hope, Anne and Waltz Themes. We bear witness to a stunning lyrical flow, which features several exquisite passages carried by solo instruments, often with contrapuntal writing. The solo flute and solo violin writing is of the highest order as Newman at last unbridles his orchestra and immerses us in a stirring display of impassioned romanticism. As the cue approaches conclusion we slowly yet inexorably begin an impassioned and refulgent ascent to climax. Yet instead of culminating with a grand romantic flourish, the melodic line is harshly severed by the arrival of the Gestapo as Anne and Peter kiss for one last time. This cue is a testimony to Newman’s genius and in my judgment one of the finest cues he has ever written. Bravo! For “Epilogue” we see Otto, who has survived the death camp, return to the attic and find Anne’s diary. He is bitter from news of Edith and Anne’s death, yet chastened when Anne’s last passage is revealed; “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” For the terrible irony of this moment Newman provides a tender rendering of Anne’s Theme by solo violin, which culminates with a soaring and refulgent expression of the Hope Theme, ending the film as it began with a view of gulls flying in a cloud filled sky.

I must thank Real Gone Music for finally providing a stereo film soundtrack album for the first time on legitimate CD. The remastering surpasses the previous released monaural sound, however the reader is advised that it does not achieve the same digital quality standard provided by current score releases. I did not find this detrimental to the listening experience, far from it. This score offers enduring testimony of the genius of Alfred Newman. He provides a multiplicity of fine themes, often heard with virtuoso performances by solo instruments. His thematic interplay is of the highest order and his music perfectly conveys the film’s poignant narrative. The release of this score is a great moment for film score collectors and I highly recommend it for your collection.

Rating: *****

Buy the Diary of Anne Frank soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • The Diary of Anne Frank (Overture) (3:41)
  • Families in Hiding (The Secret Annex) (5:33)
  • The First Day (5:25)
  • The Captives – Spring is Coming (4:21)
  • Ericka (1:31)
  • Date With Peter (4:58)
  • The First Kiss (3:43)
  • The Dearness of You, Peter (7:45)
  • Epilogue (1:25)

Running Time: 38 minutes 22 seconds

Real Gone Music 400130 (1959/2013)

Music composed and conducted by Alfred Newman. Orchestrations by Alfred Newman, Edward B. Powell and Earle Hagen. Album produced by Rick Anesini.

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