CD+DVD Reviews

“Mood Indigo – Symphonic Music of ERIK LOTICHIUS:” Variations and Finale on “Mood Indigo” (Duke Ellington); Concerto No. 1 for piano and orch.; Four Songs on American Poetry; Ragtime for Orchestra – Sandro Ivo Bartoli, p. (Concerto)/ Miranda van Kralingen, sop. (Four Songs)/ St. Petersburg Academic Sym. Orch./ Vladimir Lande – Navona Records CD + DVD

This Dutch composer got a St. Petersburg recording session for four of his works, including one consisting of variations on the Ellington tune.

Published on August 8, 2013

“Mood Indigo – Symphonic Music of ERIK LOTICHIUS:”  Variations and Finale on “Mood Indigo” (Duke Ellington); Concerto No. 1 for piano and orch.; Four Songs on American Poetry; Ragtime for Orchestra – Sandro Ivo Bartoli, p. (Concerto)/ Miranda van Kralingen, soprano (Four Songs)/ St. Petersburg Academic Sym. Orch./ Vladimir Lande – Navona Records Enhanced CD + DVD (16:9 color) NV5913, CD: 57:52 [Distr. by Naxos] ***½:  

Another interesting combo CD + DVD album. Lotichius is a Dutch composer who studied in Amsterdam and later became a professor of counterpoint, harmony, ear-training and analysis, as well as arranging. He quickly found that in spite of the academic music world’s embrace of serialism and chance a la John Cage, his tastes led instead toward light music and jazz, sometimes developed in a form later to be known as minimalism. Lotichius has described his music as a combination of “Bach, the Blues and the Beatles.”

His output includes chamber music, operas, musicals, concertos, symphonies, a Requiem for Vincent van Gogh, and piano works. He has used native American authors, Bert Brecht, and the English poet Stevie Smith in his music.  As tonality has returned to classical music in general, Lotichius has found a widening audience for his works.

He originally composed his 11-short-movements Variations and Finale on Mood Indigo for his mother, who was an eminent pianist, when he was only 20. Using Duke Ellington’s first tune for the radio, it’s a wild series of instrumental variations, some of which only use Ellington’s special harmonies, with the tune missing.  The longer finale is a kind of cakewalk with various solo instruments, building up to a straighter restatement of “Mood Indigo.” Of Lotichius’ two piano concertos, the second is scored for piano, three saxes and strings, but the First (on this CD)  is infused with jazz idioms and a worthy successor to the piano concerti of Ravel and Gershwin. Lotichius associates this concerto with his discovery, at about age 35, of the music of Dave Brubeck.

The Four Songs on American Poetry seem to be in the area between the jazz club and the concert hall. The first song is a lyrical treatment of a text by Robert Bly. There are two settings of poems by e.e. cummings in the style of Kurt Weill and making interesting use of the word “tangoing.” The second one is the erotic “I Like My Body.” Van Kralingen is the soprano soloist in these. The Ragtime for Orchestra, marked Vivace, is a fascinating oriental-sounding rag and may sound similar to the piano concerto.

The enhanced CD provides study scores, liner notes and bios in both English and Dutch, and the provided DVD is in both NTSC and PAL formats. The DVD documentary—titled “A Composer at Work”—covers the opportunity that comes up for Lotichius to record this CD of his music for Navona at the House of Radio in St. Petersburg, Russia. It’s not all a positive experience for the aging composer. With his accompanying soprano Mrianda van Kralingen, he suffers the problems of initial playing of his music by musicians there who know nothing at all about it and are playing it for the first time. Eventually, things begin to fall into place, but there will not be time or budget to record one of his pieces which Lotichius had hoped for. His disappointment is clearly conveyed without his having to say anything. The problem and attractions of recording in Russia are clearly depicted.

—John Sunier




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