David's Review Corner
, December 2019
Having a career as a flautist both in the concert hall and as a mentor, Lori Laitman was already forty-two before she composed her first art song for a school friend.
As they say, ‘from there all is history’, Laitman having since written a catalogue of art songs and two performed operas, The Scarlet Letter, already released on two Naxos CDs. Finding a biography of her younger years is not easy, so I will briefly add that she was born in the United States in 1955 and into a musical family. She then rejected her parent’s offer to study composition in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, but chose to go to Yale School of Music to study the flute, and it was there she struck up a friendship with a fellow student, the singer Lauren Wagner. Marriage to her boyhood sweetheart and three children followed, punctuated by life as a professional flautist. She was turned forty when she received that all important telephone call from Lauren, who was to make a disc of art songs, and was asking Lori to write two songs for her, something she had never done before. A visit to the local library to find two suitable poems, and the United States had a new composer called Lori Laitman. The present pair of discs includes 49 of her songs, many gathered together as collections, the combining factor being the poet she has used. They cover a spectrum of events and emotions from the horrors of the Holocaust to the thoughts of children, and are written for a range of voices, but are primarily for sopranos. Influences? Very few as she is very much her own originator, though, to give a ready guide, they are fashioned in tonality and belong to that group of North American composers who became fashionable in the years leading up to the Second World War, and who had separated themselves completely from German lieder traditions. They are personal to Laitman in having the vocal line standing alone from the piano accompaniment that is largely used as an active backdrop. They do require sopranos that are happy in the upper-stratosphere, five singers in that range are involved, three male singers making a few appearances. Most tracks have been composed in the present century, and the disc includes two gorgeous works for saxophone and piano. As Laitman has been involved in many aspects, including the pianist for some tracks; the recording producer and the disc editor, there were a number of sessions all taking place in 2017. That gives both discs a benchmark status, the singers quite obviously dedicated to Laitman’s compositions. Almost all are World Premiere recordings; both discs are very well filled and with excellent sound. The texts of the songs—which you really need—are available on www.naxos.com. © 2019 David’s Review Corner