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Franz Koglmann: Lo-lee-ta: Music on Nabokov

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Viennese composer and trumpeter Franz Koglmann is a well-known commuter between the arts and modern chamber jazz. His subtle, sophisticated compositions create a set of mirrors that reflect a distinct artistic mean: literature on Make Believe (Between the Lines, 1999), inspired by Jean Cocteau; poetry on O Moon My Pin-Up (hatOLOGY, 1997), inspired by Ezra Pound and Fear Death By Water (Between the Lines, 2003), dedicated to poetry of T.S. Elliot; cinematic images on Venus In Transit (Between the Lines, 2001), an homage to Marylin Monroe; even classical composers on An Affair with Strauss (Between the Lines, 2000). Through intimate musical articulation—orchestrating images and clever intellectual references into playful and provocative word sonatas—it was inevitable that Koglmann would choose to decipher the challenging linguistic maneuvers of world-famous writer Vladimir Nobokov, known as the master of "chamber music in prose," into a set of musical images.

Nabokov was an intriguing character. An exiled son of a Russian aristocrat at the end of the 19th century, this professor of literature, chess connoisseur and butterfly expert wrote the scandalous and erotic novel Lolita (1955), recounting the story of the middle-aged narrator/protagonist, Humbert Humbert, and his obsession and sexual involvement with the twelve-year-old Dolores Haze. Koglmann found Nabokov's prose suggesting something similar to his compositions—a distinct and personal style, a sense of elegant coolness, a flair for provocative drama and a deep need not to be bound to any norms or respected patterns.

Koglmann uses the motif in Bob Harris' title theme from director Stanley Kubrick's 1962 screen adaptation of the novel as a recurring motif throughout this elaborate musical tribute. He moves between pieces written for his Monoblue Quartet—featuring longstanding musical partners Tony Coe (reeds), Peter Herbert (bass) and Ed Renshaw (guitar)— that follow the novel's characters and scenes, as well as a series of short "Hereafter" duo pieces with keyboardist Wolfgang Mitterer that are used as sonic analogies to the characters. The interplay between the quartet members is rich and nuanced and, as expected, reflects Koglmann's rich musical vocabulary, referencing everything from early jazz to Third Stream and the avant-garde. The duos with Mitterer charge these pieces with additional abstract subtlety.

That said, Koglmann does not bind himself to Nabokov, dedicating "A Day's Work" to psychoanalyst Michael Turnheim even tough Nabokov was a well-known hater of psychoanalysis. Koglmann dedicates the final tracks to Nabokov's other novels.

This fantastic musical tribute is more than an entertaining and intellectual character quiz for connoisseurs. Using detached irony but still in his passionate manner, Koglmann offers a beautiful, accessible musical portrayal of a great writer.


Track Listing: Love Theme from Lolita; Hereafter #1; Montreux Palace; Hereafter #2; A Day's Work (dedicated to Michael Turnheim); Hereafter #3; Ada and Van; Vadim Vadimowitsch N.; Hereafter #4; Laura; Hereafter #5; Just Half a Shade; Hereafter #6 ; Martha Dreyer.

Personnel: Monoblue Quartet: Tony Coe: clarinet, alto saxophone; Franz Koglmann: trumpet, flugelhorn; Ed Renshaw: guitar; Peter Herbert: bass (1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14). Duo Franz Koglmann & Wolfgang Mitterer: Franz Koglmann: trumpet, flugelhorn; Wolfgang Mitterer: piano, electronics (2, 4, 6, 9, 11, 13)

Title: Lo-lee-ta: Music on Nabokov | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Col Legno

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