Tribute and Legacy: Erik Lotichius’ Anaitalrax (Solaire Records)

“To D. Scarlatti (1685–1757) with apologies”—so composer Erik Lotichius (1929–2015) dedicated his Anaitalrax: Twenty-five virtuoso piano studies. Yes, the work’s title—Anaitalrax—is Scarlattiana sounded backwards, but this sly wink is indicative of a deeper, more layered operation at the core of Lotichius’s work. Many of the etudes are personally dedicated to friends and loved ones. All bear the mark of Lotichius’s desire to escape the verfremdungseffekt of the European modernism that surrounded him for so much of his musical life. Instead, Lotichius heard the expressive immediacy of jazz and blues as equal to that of past musical masters. And here the title’s enigma reveals itself: perhaps for Lotichius liberation from an aesthetically desolate present came by way of retracing the past. In a new recording on Solaire Records, the first of the complete Anaitalrax cycle, pianist Ralph van Raat captures Lotichius’s layered meaning with playing as technically brilliant as it is heartfelt and personal.

On first hearing, the twenty-five studies may seem outmoded, as if they were composed of simple musical borrowings from the classical and popular past. But, each etude confidently transcends pastiche with a percipient nod and a musical twist. Anaitalrax 3 (dedicated to Roelof B.) is possessed of a nonchalance reincarnated from Debussy’s piano music. Van Raat’s pedal work creates a sonorous and humid atmosphere that quickly evaporates with each brief but persistent chromatic invasion. Anaitalrax 6 (Ragtime) transforms the carefree syncopations of its early-twentieth century cousin into rhythmic anxiety looming in van Raat’s left hand articulation. Anaitalrax 11 (for Alessandro M.) bursts with poppy, almost disco-like exuberance heightened by van Raat’s metallic treble work. Anaitalrax 17, dedicated to the Brazilian pianist Eliane Rodrigues, is a delightfully graceful habanera to which van Raat’s colors and articulation bring delicate intimacy. Anaitalrax 23 shuffles along like an over-caffeinated Jelly Roll Morton tune, but it is shaped like a Bach invention. Van Raat’s aggressive approach to the keyboard sharpens each subject entry’s claws as he allows the voices to vie for dominance prior to the final, hard-hammered cadence.

Despite Anaitalrax’s many styles and the thirty years over which the etudes were composed, the cycle is remarkably unified. This is certainly attributable in part to van Raat’s performance, which serves to link musical gestures separated by time and music (listen, for example to the subtle changes from the opening of Anaitalrax 4 to that of 16). But, Anaitalrax’s true unifier is Lotichius himself. Tobias Fischer’s equally illuminating and tender “biography in ten parts” that accompanies the two-disc set reveals Lotichius to have been insecure about the public reception of his work. So much so that when the composer finally left Amsterdam for rural Belgium, he attempted to put his “unworthy” scores on the street with the trash only to have them heroically rescued by Hantzen Houwert, the late composer’s widow, who remains the steward of Lotichius’s artistic legacy. The seeds of public insecurity, however, flowered in private composition. The etudes could just as easily be portraits of their recipients rather than gifts to them. The composer-to-listener immediacy Lotichius desired from music for his entire career is readily apparent in Anaitalrax, even if it is paradoxically hidden under layers of shapeshifting composition.

As it would seem with all things Lotichius, this record goes deeper than its two hours of enjoyable listening. Fischer’s biographical essay, notes from van Raat and producer Dirk Fisher, beautiful photography, and commissioned sketch-portraits of Lotichius and van Raat are all prefaced by an affectionate note from Hantzen Houwert. The whole is less a record than it is a tribute to the quiet, lifelong work of an underserved, underperformed, underknown composer who is—deservedly—emerging from obscurity.

SHOW – Fifth Hammer – If There Be Any Sorrow

If There Be Any Sorrow | Music of the Triduum

March 31, 2017 | 8:00 p.m. Performance | 7:00 p.m. Pre-performance Talk
Church of Our Savior, 1068 North Highland Avenue Northeast, Atlanta, GA 30306

April 7, 2017 | 8:00 p.m. Performance | 6:45 p.m. Fish Fry and Pre-performance Talk
Grace United Methodist Church, 458 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30308

Suggested donation: $15 | Reservations Strongly Recommended 
Advance tickets available through Eventbrite


Tomas Luis de Victoria | Three Tenebrae Responsories
Johann Sebastian Bach | Cantata No. 4 “Christ Lag in Todes Banden”
David Lang | the little match girl passion


Rebecca Duren and Erin McCollum, sopranos
Jeremiah Cawley, tenor
Michael Dauterman, bass
David Fishburn, organ

SHOW – The Concert Spirituel – Atlanta Baroque Orchestra and the Cathedral of St. Philip Schola

The Concert Spirituel provided a means in Paris to produce entertainments during the Lenten season when theatrical events were forbidden. Begun on March 18, 1725, these events were attended by the lower aristocracy, foreigners, and other people of means. The ABO, joined by the Cathedral Schola, recreates one such program with an exquisite grand motet by Delalande and an abundance of instrumental music by Leclair, Dauvergne, and the ever-popular Corelli.

Saturday March 18, 2017 – 7:30 p.m.
Cathedral of St. Philip
2744 Peachtree Road NW, Atlanta, GA 30305

Advance Tickets can be purchased here.

Sunday March 19, 2017 – 4:00 p.m.
St. David’s Episcopal Church
1015 Old Roswell Road, Roswell, GA 30076

Advance Tickets can be purchased here.


SHOW – Elijah – True Concord


True Concord’s upcoming performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah, January 27-29, has been called the “cornerstone of the 2017 Tucson Desert Song Festival” and having Grammy-winning operatic baritone Richard Paul Fink in the title role is certainly one of the reasons. This will be a first for True Concord to perform a work on such a monumental scale with 70 vocalists and a 50-piece orchestra. A collaboration with the University of Arizona Choral Department, Music Director Eric Holtan said of the work “it’s one of those pieces that doesn’t get done very often in Southern Arizona. This will be a rare performance.”

Now in its 5th year, the Tucson Desert Song Festival is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation initiated by a group of music-loving volunteers.  Its purpose is to “coordinate, subsidize and publicize a unique classical voice festival highlighting the rich musical life of Tucson along with some of the country’s leading vocal performance artists through a series of concerts, lectures and master classes throughout the three-weekend festival.” Financial subsidies allow local performance organizations to hire vocal soloists they might not otherwise be able to afford, such as the renowned Richard Paul Fink.

Tickets for any and all performances can be purchased through the True Concord website.

DISSERTATION – The Economic, Aesthetic, and Nonprofit Organization of Professional Vocal Ensembles

Download full text here.


Professional vocal ensembles have few published resources to assist their managers in navigating the economic and societal currents of the performing arts. Yet, professional choral performance is growing across America. This study seeks to theorize and codify the practices of professional vocal ensembles as they balance musicianship with organizational efficacy and financial security. Theoretical concerns of today’s performing arts are addressed in the areas of economics, aesthetics, audience relationships and development, organizational structure, and strategic management. Discussions in these areas are necessarily interdisciplinary because so are the professional performing arts. Conclusions are drawn to suggest successful practices and philosophies professional ensembles can adopt to better their operations.

This study utilizes a combination of resource-based research and field observation with five anonymous ensembles, all of which are exemplars of professional vocal ensemble performance. After an introduction, chapter 2 deals with matters of professionalism in choral performance. Chapter 3 presents basic economic concerns and offers a new definition of economic output in the performing arts. Chapter 4 works within that definition by quantifying and qualifying aspects of the presentation of artworks and developing audience relationships. Chapter 5 suggests means of structuring professional ensembles through designing effective performance events. Finally, chapter 6 closes the study by applying theories discussed in chapters 3–5 to the practical and strategic management of professional vocal ensembles.

BLOG – A Review of Paul A. Epstein: Piano Music – R. Andrew Lee, piano

Paul A. Epstein: Piano Music

R. Andrew Lee, piano
Will Robin, program note
Irritable Hedgehog Records

1) Drawing No. 5 (Triangles)
2) Drawing No. 3 (Slow Title)
3) Drawing No. 4 (Triangle, Broken Horizontal and Vertical Lines, Rectangles, and Parallelograms)
4) Changes 6
5) 72: 7/11/13
6) Changes 3: Palindromes
7) Landscape with Triads
8) Drawing No. 6 (Horizontal and Vertical Broken Lines)

Pianist R. Andrew Lee champions new music for the piano, continually performing and recording important if under-heard contemporary piano works. He is an unabashed proponent of minimal music, having recorded William Duckworth’s The Time Curve Preludes and Tom Johnson’s An Hour for Piano to name but two. Lee has also realized and recorded Kyle Gann’s reconstruction of Dennis Johnson’s proto-minimalist marathon, November, a project for which he has garnered well-deserved acclaim. Lee’s newest record, Paul A. Epstein: Piano Music is a welcome addition to the pianist’s already-impressive discography.

Paul A. Epstein (b. 1938), Professor Emeritus of Music Theory at Temple University, has been described as “‘the postminimalist Babbitt’ because of the ingenuity he expends twisting…logical constructs into an obvious-sounding but elusive series of processes.”[1] The piano music recorded here provides excellent proof of Gann’s assertion. Take, for example, the composer’s Drawing series, reflections on the work of Sol LeWitt, four of which are heard on the record. Each “drawing” (according to Lee’s program note to his 2013 Café Oto performance) is composed of motives that Epstein rotates “such that pitches become rhythm and vice versa,” presenting all possible combinations thereof. The result is a pointillist, often linear, contrapuntal music ever on the cusp of revealing itself.

Changes 3: Palindromes provides, by contrast, this album’s most audible process. The piece is composed in an unwavering, even joyous, D Major. Its melodic cells (as the title might suggest) retrace their own steps through pitch-additive machinery. The key is cycled through during the first half of the piece, each addition providing structural demarcation, with one note conspicuously missing. The final note of D major—the remaining C sharp—is added to the texture well beyond the halfway mark. The listening experience is one of built-in, audible expectation and satisfaction whether or not we are aware of the piece’s deeper palindromic operations.

Similarly, 72: 7/11/13 is built on a 72-16th-note, chiastic figure that slowly disintegrates and simultaneously highlights itself through new melodic orderings every 7, 11, and 13 notes. The structure’s arithmetic hides in the shadows of the musical surface, but the feeling of its presence is undeniable. This phenomenon is perhaps the hallmark of the record (and a testament to Lee’s performance): we are subconsciously aware of music’s processes even when they are not overtly audible.

If Epstein’s structures and processes are an ever-present, subliminal feature of his music, Lee accentuates them through his ordering of the works on the album. Of the four Drawings that appear, Nos. 5, 3, and 4 respectively, open the record; No. 6 closes it. 72: 7/11/13, the record’s centerpiece, is flanked on either side by Changes 6 and Changes 3: Palindromes. The commonality among all these works is the musical linearity their processes yield. It is contrapuntal interaction that creates much of the record’s harmony and verticality.

Landscape with Triads, the album’s penultimate work, is entirely different and creates an almost Joycean epiphany of listening. It cycles through major and minor chords, serializing dynamics and randomizing articulation and duration. Will Robin’s liner notes describe it as “the album’s most unsentimental system.” Up to this point, the music has been so linear—and Lee’s playing so suggestively lyrical during even the most jagged textures—that to hear simple chords of specific duration punctuated by abrupt releases and pointed silence is a revelation. The return to Epstein’s Drawing paradigm following Landscape with Triads causes the record to recycle itself as Finnegans Wake does, or perhaps more aptly here, as Epstein’s processes often do. Lee’s programming incites us to rehear the record and continually rewards us as we do.

Post-Landscape, Lee’s playing takes on a sheen that was surely always present but disguised in Epstein’s counterpoint. Poignancy of tone, revelatory articulation, and textures now snarled, now transparent, are the sublime outcomes of Lee’s renderings of Epstein’s musical strictures. In the composer’s own words, we are ushered into “a rich array of possibilities out of which [we] may construct an experience of the piece.”[2] Lee’s ordering manages to confront certain possibilities on first hearing and opens the floodgates thereafter, holding Landscape With Triads as the parallax. The record commends his estimable technique, his knowledge and love of new music, and his creativity deploying them together.

* * * 

Paul A. Epstein: Piano Music is available from Irritable Hedgehog Records, along with the rest of R. Andrew Lee’s recordings. All are available as CDs or as digital downloads, both of which include insightful and often extensive program notes.

* * *

[1] Kyle Gann, “Metametrics, Postminimalist Version,” PostClassic: Kyle Gann on Music After the Fact, February 19, 2006

[2] Paul A. Epstein, “Pattern Structure and Process in Steve Reich’s ‘Piano Phase,’” The Musical Quarterly 72, (1986): 497.

SHOW – DeCachetitoRaspado (Cheek to Stubbled Cheek) – Bent Frequency


DeCachetitoRaspado (Cheek to Stubbled Cheek), a Comic-Hemofiction opera created by two extraordinary Mexican artists:  Juan Trigos, composer and conductor; and Juan Trigos Synister, novelist, playwright and librettist. Through their works, both artists engage with culturally relevant and significant social themes, such as absence, alcohol and drug abuse, and women’s roles in the household and in society, opening a door to their conscience, urging us to reflect and to peek into the depths of our own. The story: During their sterile matrimony and their attempt to escape it through continual drunkenness, Primancianita and Juansorisa give birth to two imaginary sons. These children become absent spectators and create a kind of fictional theater. Featured in the production are: composer and conductor Juan Trigos; stage director Luis Martín Solís: painter and scenographer Luciano Trigos; mezzo-soprano Amy Sheffer; baritone César Torruella; soprano Daniela D’Ingiullo; tenor Esteban Cordero; co-choreographers, actresses and dancers Daniela Arroio and Anna Mariscal; the Zeitgeist Chorus directed by Deanna Joseph; and Bent Frequency.

*** DeCachetitoRaspado will be sung in Spanish with English supertitles****

Tickets can be purchased through Bent Frequency’s Eventbrite. For more information call 404-981-3023.

SHOW – Lessons and Carols by Candlelight – True Concord


Lessons and Carols by Candlelight features works by Britten, Stephen Paulus, Green Valley’s Gerald Near, and others.

  • Thursday, December 10, 7:30 p.m. – Episcopal Church of the Apostles
  • Friday, December 11, 7 p.m. – St. Francis in the Valley Episcopal Church, Green Valley
  • Saturday, December 12, 7:30 p.m. – St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church
  • Sunday, December 13, 3 p.m. – St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church
  • Sunday, December 13, 7:30 p.m. – St. Alban’s Episcopal Church

Tickets for any and all performances can be purchased through the True Concord website.