BARLETTA, Italy (AFP) — The idea of collecting music written in internment camps before and during World War II may not occur to everyone. But that has been Francesco Lotoro's quest since 1991.
Lotoro has amassed some 4,000 pieces, all composed between March 1933, when the Nazis' Dachau death camp was opened soon after Hitler won absolute power, and the end of World War II in 1945. But while much is from Nazi camps, Lotoro's collection covers internment camps from both sides of the war.
Carefully archived in Lotoro's office in Barletta, southern Italy, much of the music has never been recorded.
The son of distinguished Czech composer Rudolf Karel, who died at the Theresienstadt camp near Prague in 1945, gave Lotoro a photocopy of a five-part composition written on toilet paper. In a music shop in Prague, Lotoro met Eliska Kleinova, the sister of Gideon Klein, who was the organiser of cultural life at the Theresienstadt concentration camp in the Czech Republic and died in the gas chambers of Fuerstengrube.
Lotoro, himself an accomplished musician who studied under the celebrated French pianist Aldo Ciccolini, took home the music to a sonata Klein composed at Theresienstadt (Czech name is Terezin).
At the camp, musicians were allowed to play a piano for half an hour a day, which may explain anomalies in some pieces.
"The piano lost some of its reality," said Lotoro, who sports a black beard and small round glasses. "The musician composed in his head, and the physical limits of the instrument didn't exist anymore. These pieces reflect a special sort of ventilation."
Lotoro, who teaches at the regional conservatory of music, added:
Lotoro has a contract with Musikstrasse, an Italian cultural association, to record 32 CDs.
So far six have been produced and are on sale under the label KZ Musik.
"When I started, I thought I would find a few hundred works at most," Lotoro smiled.