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Lori LAITMAN (b.1955)
Dreaming

Four Dickinson Songs (1996)
Jennifer Check (soprano)
Warren Jones (piano)
Men with Small Heads (2000)
Randall Scarlata (baritone)
Lori Laitman (piano)
Sunflowers (1999)
Sari Gruber (soprano)
Lori Laitman (piano)
Holocaust 1944 (1996 revised 1998)
William Sharp (baritone)
Gary Karr (double bass)
The Years (2001)
Patricia Green (mezzo soprano)
Warren Jones (piano)
Plums (1996)
Jennifer Check (soprano)
Warren Jones (piano)
Between the Bliss and Me (1997)
Jennifer Check (soprano)
Warren Jones (piano)
Little Elegy (2002)
Sari Gruber (soprano)
Lori Laitman (piano)
Dreaming (1991)
Jennifer Check (soprano)
Randall Scarlata (baritone)
Warren Jones (piano and additional vocals)
Recorded at the Performing Arts Centre, Purchase College, State University of New York, 2002
ALBANY RECORDS TROY 570 [79.21]

 

The cover picture is deceptive. Albany have shown strong commitment to song composer Lori Laitman – whose Mystery is also reviewed on this site – and that is very much the case with this release. Documentation is excellent; there are full texts, and notes regarding the compositions from the composer. Thankfully the recording level and balance are just and the performances are clearly committed though, it must be said, uneven. One of these songs – the setting of Emily Dickinson’s If I ... from the Four Dickinson Songs cycle of 1996 has been recorded before on Gasparo GSCD 360, an album of Dickinson settings and sung there by Virginia Dupuy review. It shows that Laitman is gaining ground in American art song performance. That is a reflection of her intimate appreciation of Dickinson’s songs – talismanic though the poet may be for American song composers, from Copland down, it nevertheless takes an acute ear for psychological and musical balance to set her. In that respect it can fairly be said that Laitman understands the hermetic as much as she does the wild in Dickinson’s writing. And she sets her with vivid imagination.

The cycle Men with Small Heads to the poems of Thomas Lux sounds rather whimsical but she strikes a more impressionist stance in Sunrise from Sunflowers, a 1999 setting. The heart of the collection however is Holocaust 1944, seven poems set for baritone and double bassist – here Gary Karr for whom the work was written. The texts and sonorities evoke considerably darker resonances than another cycle dealing with the Holocaust, I Never Saw Another Butterfly, which is on the companion Albany disc. The bass keens, bearing much of the emotive weight of the settings, and is called upon to employ considerable reserves of technique and expression; not least in the folk-like moments that give added poignancy. There’s some Scherzo relief provided by What Luck, the fourth of the seven. In the final poem, the one that gives the cycle its title, the power is built up through cumulative repetition, the lyrical reminiscences being that much more moving as a result.

Lest I give the impression that it’s all doom and gloom; it’s not. A number of the cycles are light and airy and we have examples of her more frivolous side (Plums) and the song that gives this disc its title, Laitman’s own Dreaming. This is a hilarious encore piece – Felicity Lott should get to hear of it without delay and she’ll need to rope in Thomas Allen. It makes for a witty envoi to a well-planned and rewarding disc.

Jonathan Woolf

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