Lori Laitman: The Secret Exit. © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd

CD Spotlight

Matching Words with Music

GERALD FENECH listens to music for soprano and clarinet by Lori Laitman, Kalmen Opperman and Diana Rosenblum

'Not for the romantic at heart, but nonetheless, this is fine advocacy for the modern American song genre, worth investigating.'


It is not often that a CD reviewer finds himself in the quandary of having to write about an issue comprising a group of composers he has never heard of. Well, this is exactly the case for yours truly, but I'm going to give it a heartfelt try. Let me start by stating that this CD is mainly dedicated to Lori Laitman, whose three featured works take up more than 45 of the 53 minutes that make up this programme comprising a collection of songs with voice and clarinet from the States. Lori Laitman (born 1955) is the composer of multiple operas and choral works, and her output also includes hundreds of songs, setting texts by classical and contemporary poets, including those who were exterminated in the Holocaust. Her music has generated great critical acclaim and the Journal of Singing wrote: 'It is difficult to think of anyone before the public today who equals her exceptional gifts for embracing a poetic text and giving it new and deeper life through music.' The recipient of many commissions from highly prestigious societies and orchestras, Laitman continues to write assiduously, and the three song cycles on this disc are a testament to her ability in matching words with music.

I Never Saw Another Butterfly (1996) is a profoundly moving cycle, set to words of hope and despair written by children imprisoned in the Terezin concentration camp.

Listen — Lori Laitman: The Butterfly (I Never Saw Another Butterfly)
(track 5, 0:00-1:00) © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

Inspired by this poignant and deeply affecting music, the two performers of this programme commissioned a follow-up. The Secret Exit (2017) on poems by Nelly Sachs, the Nobel Laureate, are touching reflections on life and death, full of contrasting moods and feelings. Incidentally, Sachs was a Jewish German poet who escaped the Nazis by fleeing to Sweden in 1940. In 1966 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Listen — Lori Laitman: When in early summer (The Secret Exit)
(track 3, 0:00-0:57) © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

Laitman was always an admirer of Joyce Sutphen's poetry and she admits to finding her poems deeply inspiring. Living in the Body is a combination of some of these works which allowed the composer to create a cycle about love, memory and resilience. The second song is indeed the cycle's title, and with its progression from humour to truth, the composer felt compelled to read it at her mother's funeral. This new version for soprano and clarinet was created in 2018.

Listen — Lori Laitman: Living in the Body
(track 12, 0:00-0:47) © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

This collation is completed with the haunting Un Seul for clarinet solo (2000) by Kalmen Opperman (1919-2010) and a delightful setting of 'Winter Rain' (2013) by Diana Rosenblum (born 1983). Not for the romantic at heart, but nonetheless, this is fine advocacy for the modern American song genre, worth investigating.

Listen — Diana Rosenblum: Winter Rain
(track 16, 2:29-3:22) © 2020 Naxos Rights (Europe) Ltd :

Splendid annotations - do read before you listen - and top notch sound are added pluses.

Copyright © 9 September 2020 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta






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