Mood Indigo: Symphonic Music of Erik Lotichius on Navona Records

navona-records-logoErik Lotichius has been an island unto himself as a composer for most his career. Proudly voicing his distaste for emancipated dissonance and the avart-garde movements of the 20th century, Lotichius turned to jazz and popular music as inspiration for his personal sound. While jazz had its short influence on concert music in the early part of the 20th century, especially the music of George Gershwin, this Dutch composer still drew on the American born music genre giving him a voice very much his own.

Erik Lotichius

Erik Lotichius

The title track Variations and Finale on “Mood Indigo” is based off of Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo, his first piece written for radio broadcast. The variations are all fairly short and concise, but each one introduces a distinct new flavor. A variety of wind soloists introduce the sleepy theme accompanied by strings giving a slow “boom-chick.” The first variation quickly picks up in energy with a fast rising line in the strings leading into a light swinging melody while second variation is punchy, yet still in a soft way. This variation provides moments for every section of the orchestra to play around with the swinging staccato rhythms. As the piece progresses the intensity and activity is notched up gradually until fifth variation when the mood feels as if a funeral procession has started to pass through the party. Each variation after is more reflective, but still has a youthful spirit in its sound. One of the more humorous, and rare, occurrences in the piece is the jazz bassoon duet at beginning of variation eight. Somehow the swinging jazz melody fits very well on the instrument and out of the duet an interesting fugal variation emerges building to a satisfying climax. The finale gives the listener a break from the huge climatic build-ups that occur throughout the previous variations and instead helps wind the listener down. This is definitely a change from the traditional explosive closing, but a welcome one.

Concerto No. 1 for piano and orchestra and Four Songs on American Poetry are different soundscapes entirely and really shows off diversity of Lotichius’ musical influences. The entire concerto alternates between frustrated quiet sections and boisterous tutti chords from the orchestra, especially in the first movement that is reminiscent of a dark tango. In this piece the St. Petersburg Academic Symphony Orchestra seems much more at home compared to the more jazz oriented Mood Indigo. The concerto shows off the great soloist Sandro Ivo Baroli as well. Baroli’s playing, especially in the frequently employed low register, comes out well defined and surprisingly clear. Likewise, Miranda van Kralingen’s singing on Four Songs is heavenly and very fun to listen to. The pieces were written for the composer’s wife and evoke the sounds of Broadway during the 1920’s and 30’s. Again Gershwin comes to mind, but without the easily set libretto from Ira.

mood-indogoRounding out the album nicely is Ragtime.Though the name is quite misleading in style, the form could be used to explain a Joplin rag. The energy in the driving string part paired with the fanfare brass sections really takes this one home.

Included on the CD are scores of all of the pieces recorded as well as other extra content. A DVD is also included that takes a look at the recording process from the viewpoint of the composer. Seeing the assembly of so many nationalities and age groups meeting to record an old composer’s pieces is inspiring and fulfilling. This NuFilm production also captures Lotichius reflecting back on certain points of his career and what it all has come to mean for him. His relation of “Mood Indigo moments” to the music brings new insight into what is behind the music and could be inspiring to any composer.

Mood Indigo is a fantastic example of Erik Lotichius’ compositional voice and gives credit to the effects of Jazz worldwide. This album is a great testament to a unique compositional voice that has gone largely ignored until now and while not groundbreaking the music is great example of compositional craftsmanship.

Mood Indigo: Symphonic Music of Erik Lotichius [CD+DVD], Erik Lotichius, Vladimir Lande, St. Petersburg Academic Symphony Orchestra (navona, 2013) Buy on | Buy on