Punchy folkloristic suites, dances and miniatures from a musically neglected corner of Europe.
There are two generations of Albanian composers represented on this invaluable guide to the country’s piano music. Simon Gjoni, Cesk Zadeja and Tonin Harapi belong to the first generation of professional composers from Albania, all born in the 1920s, studying abroad but returning to the capital and artistic hub, Tirane, to lead cultural life while the country suffered from comparative international isolation in the 1950s and 60s. It is to this later generation that Pellumb Vorpsi, Thomas Simaki and Vasil Tole belong.
The Adriatic culture shared by Albania and Italy is celebrated in several bilingually titled works such as Ja gëzimi kthen përsëri (La gioia ritorna ancora) by Harapi, whose works are among the simplest, briefest and most charming on the album. At the other end of the scale, pianistically speaking, are the Lisztian Variations on a Popular Theme by Vorpsi. Even so, both composers, and most of the others, share a direct, fresh, folk-inspired mode of expression that carries with it strains of Bartók and Vaughan Williams, to name two more noted ethno musicological explorers in the early years of the last century.
This album marks the debut of Marsida Koni (born 1981) on Piano Classics. An Albanian native, she grew up in her home country and made her broadcast debut at the age of just nine, and her orchestral concerto debut two years later. Having graduated from the university in Tirane, she pursued further studies in Italy, where she now makes her career. She has a recorded partnership with the clarinettist Piero Vincenti, and she is artistic director of the Lazar Berman International Piano Competition in Camerino in the Marche region of northern Italy.
Due to its extreme isolation the musical development in Albania kept its own pace and direction, independent of what was happening in other countries. This new recording presents a unique overview of the music by Albanian composers of the 20th century. From the 1950's on the musical life received a new impetus in the development of musical education systems and the founding of several symphony orchestras, and composers were inspired to write in a new national style, which was rooted in the rich folk music tradition of the country.
The piano music presented here is generally in traditional style, highly attractive, alternating melancholy romanticism and joyous, rhythmically vibrant folk music. Marsida Koni is one of the foremost pianists of Albania. She studied in Italy with the famous pianist and teacher Franco Scala, and she founded a Piano Academy in Perugia. © Piano Classics