Erik Lotichius: Anaitalrax

Ralph van Raat

Solaire Records SOL1005

This generous offering from Solaire records appeared in my review pile quite by chance, having commented on a Facebook post mentioning how much I had enjoyed some of Lotichius’ music only to have record producer Dirk Fischer offer to send me a copy of this new release. The Dutch composer lived most of his life in Belgium, but found himself neglected by the musical establishment in most of Europe on account of his music’s insistence on melody and traditional tonality. This is not to say Lotichius is without inventiveness, as his music is frequently characterised by a tonal tradition combined with elements of twentieth century music, in particular jazz music and occasionally minimalism. The music here is characterised by a fundamental lightness with a fondness for dance rhythms, while placing serious demands in front of the performer. Thankfully, the great Dutch pianist Ralph van Raat is more than up to this task. 

The pieces as a whole are dedicated “To Domenico Scarlatti with apologies”, which gives some indication of the wry humour in many of these works. Indeed the title Anaitalrax is actually a play on words, being “Scarlattiana” sounded in reverse. Each etude likewise has an individual dedication, presumably to the pianists for whom they were written and the entire collection spans over thirty years of Lotichius’ work. 

Taken as a whole, to listen to all of the music in one sitting is quite a task, which is a shame, as the pieces are individually very fine, but are very much studies. Really, I have found myself preferring to dip into this collection and listen to two or three pieces at a time, but for the immersive listener, the whole collection as an opportunity to trace a composer’s development over time should prove very appealing. 

Van Raat’s performance is meticulously detailed and features occasionally startling dynamic contrasts and the quality of the recorded sound is second to none. But this is more than a mere overview of a composer’s piano works, this is a labour of love. Fischer worked directly with the composer’s widow to try and arrange performances and recordings of this music, which proved unexpectedly difficult, as the liner notes explain. The collaboration between the producers, the performer and the composer’s family shows unerring dedication to this all-too-often overlooked composer of melody-driven classical music and the package not only features two discs but a sensitive and illuminating biography by Tobias Fischer as well as a detailed account of the recording process. 

Some of the etudes, I will admit, did occasionally try my patience [particularly the more repetitive pieces, which nod to minimalism], but these are in a minority. More often, these jazzy and tuneful, often light-hearted pieces, are a delight to listen to. Highlights for me personally include the Ragtime etude [track six on disc one], of which there is also an orchestral arrangement, and the Andante dedicated to Martin R, also on disc one. Disc two opens in sprightly mood as well with the Allegro etude, but there are several more mellow works found on the second disc such as the lovely slow tango Moderato dedicated to Elaine Rodriguez and the collection is rounded off with the beautifully lilting bis Moderato dedicated to Ernst Has. For those of you who are passionate about promoting modern music that is melody-driven and instantly appealing, this disc is a must have collection – it would be a crime to let Lotichius’ music slip under the radar. DA

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