Performance Reviews

  • Allan Kozinn, The New York Times

    Review of Lauren Wagner’s recital with pianist Frederick Weldy, May 5, 1993, Weill Recital Hall, which included The Strong House and To A Loose Woman, from Lori’s first cycle The Metropolitan Tower and Other Songs.

    Ms. Wagner has put together a program of considerable beauty and consistency and made a case for the richness of the American song repertory….Of the most recent pieces, Lori Laitman’s “Strong House” and “To A Loose Woman” …were especially effective.

  • Tim Page, The Washington Post, January 18, 2003

    Review of baritone Randall Scarlata’s Kennedy Center Terrace Theatre recital on January 16, 2002, which included my Men With Small Heads cycle and the premiere of Long Pond Revisited — with pianist Cameron Stowe and cellist Marcy Rosen.

    On Thursday night, baritone Randall Scarlata joined forces with the adept and responsive pianist Cameron Stowe for a program of works by Schubert, Brahms, Poulenc, Marc Blitzstein and the contemporary American composers Lori Laitman and David Baker… He brought aching maturity to Brahms and daffy, childlike bewilderment to Laitman’s “Men With Small Heads” and “Refrigerator, 1957” (to texts by Thomas Lux that throw off loopy verbal sparks like so many Roman candles)…The world premiere of Laitman’s “Long Pond Revisited” was a melancholy pleasure. In this setting of five elegiac poems by C.G.R. Shepard, Scarlata was joined by the cellist Marcy Rosen. The words are declaimed in a direct and straightforward manner, while the cello follows the voice like an abstracted soul, reacting inwardly to the outward expressions of nostalgia and sorrow. The ending was nothing less than a masterstroke: After the last words had finished, the cello twitched on for a moment and then faded to an empty, nerveless open chord, and it was over. I was reminded of one of those deathbed scenes in the movies where the life line on the hospital monitor suddenly goes flat. Incredibly, in an instant the loved one is gone, the poetry is lost and the world is gray.

  • Joanne Sydney Lessner, Opera News, February 2009

    On November 21 at Weill Recital Hall, baritone Andrew Garland did something refreshing: he presented New York premieres by six living American composers, all but one of whom were in attendance. Garland and his pianist, the accomplished, nimble-fingered Donna Loewy, are carving out a place for themselves in this arena… Garland, who has a lean, fine-grained, vibrant baritone, presents himself with a tautly focused concentration that can sometimes become stagy, but his natural twinkle and comic timing were on display during Lori Laitman’s delightful Men with Small Heads. Garland thoroughly owned these quirky settings of child’s-eye-view poems by Thomas Lux, and as he began to sing less, he communicated more. Whether as the perspective-challenged six-year-old of the title song, a youth lusting after a jar of maraschino cherries, the proud owner of a tin parrot pin whose charm is lost on others or a deliciously sibilant snake warning swimmers out of his lair, Garland was utterly engaging. Laitman’s sense of humor enhances her considerable skill as a text-painter, and this set was easily the highpoint of the concert.

  • Bruce Hodges, Seen and Heard International Concert Review

    Men With Small Heads, with pianist Donna Loewy, November 21, 2009, Weill Recital Hall

    Andrew Garland brought his expressive baritone coupled with the occasional streak of theatricality to make this exceptionally rewarding evening at Weill Recital Hall come to life, with pianist Donna Loewy his discreet collaborator.

 Lori Laitman’s Men with Small Heads had many in the audience laughing. The title song refers to a small child gazing up at adults, whose heads appear to be disproportionately tiny. Refrigerator, 1957 contains an unopened jar of maraschino cherries, brimming with fascination to someone weaned on bland food, and A Small Tin Parrot Pin uses internal rhyme and wordplay to smirking effect, coupled with Laitman’s light, brisk vocal writing. But the final song might have been the funniest: Snake Lake, in which the singer uses an overly sibilant “s” in every word that that has one.

  • Michael Huebner, The Birmingham News

    A review of Elizabeth Futral’s recital with pianist William Billingham, on November 16, 2010, Samford University, Birmingham, AL, which included Lori’s Mary Oliver cycle Sunflowers.

    Contemporary songs by Lori Laitman — airy, breezy settings of Mary Oliver poems — were thoughtful journeys into sunflowers, dreams and sunlight.

  • Karren Alenier, aka The Dresser, Scene4 Magazine

    The Act, January 14, 2011

    [I] saw [UrbanArias’] production of seven pocket operas presented in just over one hour of performance time and walked out of the Arlington, Virginia, Artisphere giddy with delight. To the Dresser’s ear, the most interesting music came from Lori Laitman (The Act) and Jake Heggie (Again). Laitman’s music takes more risks with tonality…Standing head and shoulders above the set of short works both for its music and text, The Act, which concerns a knife-throwing act by a husband and wife, offers lines like “love is made of danger not romance.” Meghan McCall in her sensuous feathered headdress and violet gloves was fascinating to watch and hear.

  • Tom Strini, Third Coast Digest

    Below is a review of Susanna Phillips’ recital with clarinetist Todd Levy on January 25, 2012, which included my Holocaust-themed cycle I Never Saw Another Butterfly.

    Soprano Susanna Phillips’ voice — as big, beautiful and amazingly versatile as it is — was not the main thing at the Chamber Music Milwaukee concert Wednesday evening.

    The main thing was interaction of that voice with Todd Levy’s clarinet, Ted Soluri’s bassoon, Gregory Flint’s horn and Brian Zeger’s piano. She reacted not only to their tempos, but to their phrasing and the shading of their timbres. She sang like a chamber musician, and the wind players took on the expressive qualities of a fine and sensitive singer.

    Phillips and Levy tuned in to each other as if by telepathy in Parto, parto, ma tu, ben mio, from Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, in an arrangement of R. Strauss’ Morgen that added clarinet (by way of encore), and especially in Lori Laitman’s I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a cycle of six songs on English translations of poems by inmates of Nazi concentration camps.

    The Laitman cycle, for clarinet and voice only, is no less monstrously difficult and no less poignant for being understated. The voice and the clarinet play many different roles. Sometimes, the voice carries the line and the clarinet winds around it — sometimes, it’s vice versa. Bitter ironies lie in the weirdly cheery, vaguely klezmer clarinet parts when paired with the grim texts of Man Proposes, God Disposes and Yes, That’s the Way Things Are. The clarinet has mostly soft pedal tones, without vibrato, against an active voice part loaded with tritones — which Phillips hit with deadly accuracy — in the final song. Nothing about this music or these mood-perfect performances strained for effect. On the contrary, that last number came off as the haunting evidence of entropy overtaking the abandoned home of a victim of genocide.

  • Donald Rosenberg, Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 2004

    Below is a review of the premiere of Come to Me in Dreams, presented by Cleveland Opera.

    The Nazis destroyed millions of lives, but they couldn’t contain the thoughts and words of many who refused to lose hope. Cleveland Opera’s final program of the season…brings some of those words to affecting and disturbing life…[The] company is presenting the double bill of Lori Laitman’s Come to Me in Dreams (in its world premiere) and Grigori Frid’s The Diary of Anne Frank (in its Ohio premiere).

    Both works have striking features, especially Come to Me in Dreams, a selection of Laitman songs tied together by David Bamberger, Cleveland Opera’s retiring general director. Bamberger’s scenario depicts the struggle of a Holocaust survivor to come to terms with the loss of his wife and a daughter.

    The texts for the 15 songs in Come to Me in Dreams are derived from various sources, including children who died in the Nazi concentration camp Theresienstadt (Terezin). Laitman’s settings are exuberant, poignant and harrowing realizations, written with a musical poet’s ear for expressive warmth, nuance and color.