LAITMAN Holocaust 1944
Numerous composers have attempted to render the Holocaust (or at least some aspect of it) in music, often without the ends justifying their means. The present work, though, does not fall victim to its ambition: indeed, having already composed one such song-cycle – I Never Saw Another Butterfly (recorded by Hila Plitmann on Signum) – Lori Laitman was well placed to delve further into the wealth of poetry from Holocaust victims and survivors. The outcome is Holocaust 1944, seven songs in which the sombre restraint of the bass-baritone register is ideally complemented by its accompaniment for double bass. In spite (or perhaps because) of these restrictions, the sequence unfolds seamlessly and inevitability – with not a little wry humour to offset the prevailing mood of numbed tragedy. Dominant in expressive weight are the third and seventh settings: ‘Both Your Mothers’ sets a text by Jerzy Ficowski concerning the survival of life after another’s ‘death’, while ‘Holocaust 1944’ sets stanzas by Anne Ranasinghe in which recollection can only bring with it a sense of waste and futility.
Projecting this music with the required intensity, while avoiding affectation, cannot be easy but Dashon Burton admirably conveys its understated eloquence, and in Logan Coale has a bassist of a dexterity matched by his feeling for melodic line; the whole recorded in a warmly sympathetic ambience. It would have been easy to extend the disc with further examples by this prolific song composer, though such a piece ideally needs to be heard on its own terms.