I was in awe when Francesco walked into our Arutz Sheva studio in Jerusalem with such simplicity, almost embarrassed to be there. I managed to get him away from Yad Vashem where he was very busy doing some research while on a five day trip to Israel from Italy, for a chat with me on camera on who he is and what he does with such devotion and love.
Born in 1964 in Barletta (Italy), Francesco Lotoro is a pianist, composer and conductor as well as being a piano teacher at the "Niccolò Piccinni" Conservatory in Bari. For the past 30 years, he has been tirelessly engaged in the retrieval, study, revision, archiving, performance, recording and promotion of thousands of works of concentration camp music.
He has recovered over 8,000 scores - often produced in a condition of deprivation of the most basic human rights, in concentration, extermination and civilian and military prison camps around the world between 1933 (opening of KZ Dachau) to 1953 (death of Joseph Stalin and amnesty for Gulag prisoners), i.e. from the rise of National Socialism to the end of Soviet Stalinism - 12,500 documents of music production in the camps (microfilms, diaries, music notebooks, phonograph recordings, interviews with surviving musicians) and 3,000 university publications, essays of concentration camp music and musical essays produced in the camps. A unique archive in the world created by traveling and meeting authors and guardians of these precious art testimonies imbued with humanity everywhere.
Lotoro's work so far in the field of concentration camp music has aroused widespread interest and international recognition: in 2013 the French Ministry of Culture appointed him Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres, followed in 2014 by the title of Cavaliere of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic conferred by the Italian president Sergio Mattarella. Furthermore, two important editorial works have been dedicated to Lotoro and his research: the book "Le Maestro: A la recherche de la musique des camps" by the French author Thomas Saintourens (translated in Italy for Piedmontese publishers and in the Czech Republic for Volvox), and the documentary film Maestro by the French-Argentine director Alexandre Valenti, an Italian-French co-production broadcast in 2017 on France 2, France 5, RAI 3, RTVP 2 (Portugal) and in cinemas around the world. He is now working on the "100 VIAGGI" project conceived by Donatella Altieri, in search of the last surviving musicians and their works. This immense artistic and human heritage that Francesco Lotoro has managed to collect is at the basis of the Institute of Concentrationary Musical Literature Foundation, created in 2014 by the musician with a small group of other founding members in Barletta, the Apulian city where the Citadel of the Concentrationary Music, the largest hub in the world dedicated to music produced in the Camps; a place where Lotoro's dream becomes history, an artistic, cultural and spiritual treasure for everyone.