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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Këngë – Albanian Piano Music
Feim IBRAHIMI (1935-1997)

Tokatë për piano (1963) [4:20]
Kozma LARA (b. 1930)

Këngë [2:07]
March [1:58]
Ballade no. 4, ‘Pastorale’ [4:10]
Valle: moderato [1:20]
Valle: allegro [2:01]
Pellumb VORPSI (b. 1957)

Variations for Piano (Ballad) on a Popular Theme (1978) [9:29]
J. PAPADHIMITRI

Nina-Nana (1983) [1:57]
A. KOMINO

Vallja e fatosave (Children’s Dance) (1983) [1:28]
Alberto PAPARISTO (b. 1925)

Çiftelia (1967) [2:15]
Këngë e lashte (Song of Ancient Times) (1964) [3:16]
Humoreska (1976) [2:17]
Simon GJONI (1926-1991)

Këngë trimërie (Song of Bravery) (1983) [2:17]
Ramadan SOKOLI (b. 1920)

Nocturne no. 2 [3:37]
Çesk ZADEJA (1927-1997)

Four Pieces for Piano (1986, 1966, 1989, 1986)
Improvizim [2:38]
Humoreska [2:06]
Prelud [2:16]
Tokata [4:27]
Tonin HARAPI (1928-1992)

Romance in A b major [3:55]
Valle: andante con moto [1:21]
Nji dhimb je e vogël (A Little Pain) [1:10]
Valle: allegro vivo [0:47]
Romanze in A minor [1:09]
Moll ’e kuqe top sheqere (A Candied Apple) [1:03]
Waltz on a Popular Theme [2:22]
Arian AVRAZI

Tokkata (1979) [5:20]
Kirsten Johnson (piano)
Rec. Exeter College, Oxford, 13-15 March 2002 DDD
GUILD GMCD 7257 [64:47]



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Këngë is the Albanian for 'song'. This gives the clue to this selection of pleasing folk-accented solo piano pieces. Dissonance plays only a bit part here and there. Otherwise the emphasis is on 'singing' melodic material sometimes with a subtle Middle Eastern flavour. Before we become too superior about these products of Enver Hoxha's regime (1944-1985) we should reflect on the strengths of E.J. Moeran's solo piano music (well taken by Una Hunt on ASV), Peter Maxwell Davies' Farewell to Stromness, Ronald Stevenson's folk pieces, the piano music of Lionel Sainsbury, the phenomenal success of Gurdjieff and de Hartmann and of Alan Hovhaness. These Albanian pieces were written under an oppressive regime that forbade the study of music written after the deaths of Stalin and Prokofiev (1953). Confinement to folk roots must not condemn this always attractive and rarely anodyne material.

Ibrahimi's Tokatë (1963) and Avrai's Tokkata (1979) are whirling Dervish dances dusted with Bartókian dissonance - more in the Ibrahimi than in the Avrazi. Dissonance is banished for Lara's gently rocking Këngë (rather Nyman-like I thought) and a delightful folksy Pastoral with that Eastern tang. It is no surprise that Kenge comes from a suite called Joyful Days. The Lara pieces are from the 1970s. Vorpsi's hypnotic Variations on a Popular Theme (1978) is based on the folksong Why does the blackbird sing? It is cut from the same cloth as the Lara pieces. Nina-Nana, a gentle lullaby, again with that exotic eastern flavour (a touch of Borodin), is by J. Papdhimitri. The glinting and smiling Children's Dance is by A Komino. Alberto Paparisto's three pieces are by turns motoric (Çiftelia is a chicane ride evocative of the folk instrument of the same name), dissonantly reflective and sardonic (the seas of Prokofiev being plied in Humoreska). Gjoni's Song of Bravery is not your standard fare - nothing of the stand and bawl about this. Instead we get a noble, sometimes slightly dissonant and fiercely declamatory hymn-cortège using the apparatus provided by the Liszt piano sonata. The Dies Irae is woven into this music. Sokoli's Nocturne has a quiet Beethovenian air about it - rising from lament toward indomitable major key optimism. Zadeja's Four Pieces from the 1980s are subdued (tr.15), Shostakovich-like in places (tr.16), starry in the manner of Sisask (tr.17), idyllic and quietly nervous. Harapi's tranquil, folk-like and Chopin-spirited Romance, Valle, Nji Dhimb, Moll'e Kuqe and Romanze contrast with the spirited toccata-like allegro vivo (tr. 22) and the nostalgic Waltz on a Popular Theme. These Harapi pieces are from the period 1966 to 1987. They recall the sincere pastiche piano solos of Valentin Silvestrov and the Schumann inflections of the Swiss composer Richard Flury.

Without denying its individuality this music will appeal to you if you have already discovered and remained loyal to the Gurdjieff/Hartmann series on Auvidis Naive or the Hovhaness piano discs on Koch.

This folk-exotica is sympathetically played by Kirsten Johnson who also wrote the excellent notes. I wonder if she is planning a second Albanian volume. If not perhaps she and Guild might consider doing the same for the piano music of Bulgaria and Rumania.

This disc has the potential to become extremely popular. I hope that the likes of Classic FM in the UK will do more than take note of it.

Rob Barnett



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