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Sunday, 8 October 2017



Last night (7th Oct 2017), I attended an orchestral concert performed by the London City Philharmonic, an orchestra whose players come from all over the world. The conductor was the Albanian Olsi Qinami, a founder of the orchestra. The programme, “Tales from the East”, consisted of music by eastern European composers with one exception.

The concert began with a sensitive rendering of Antonin Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dances”. This was followed by Max Bruch’s “Kol Nidrei”, Adagio on Hebrew Melodies”. Bruch was not an Eastern European, having been born a Protestant in Cologne (in 1838). He was fond of using ‘exotic’ themes in his compositions. The piece for cello soloist and orchestra, which we heard last night looks eastwards in a romantic way at a prayer of the Ashkenazi Jews, which is recited at Yom Kippur. The cellist, Alexandra Fletcher, a Londoner, played beautifully.

These two well-known pieces were followed by two compositions, which deserve to be better-known. The first was a piano concerto (“Concerto for piano and orchestra in one movement”) by Fatos Lumani (born 1983), a Professor at the State University of Tetova in Macedonia. The soloist in this powerful, invigorating piece was Shkelzen Baftiari, an Albanian Macedonian who lives in Skopje (Macedonia). His playing of this complex composition was masterful. The orchestra accompanied him skilfully, seemingly with great ease given how difficult this piece is to perform.

The evening continued with an orchestral piece, “Arbereshes Sime”, by the Albanian composer Gerti Druga. He was born in Kuçovë (Albania) in 1986. The first part of this beautiful composition was based on the melody of a song sung by the Arbëreshë people, descendants of Albanians who escaped from the Ottomans in the 15th century and settled in Italy, where, to this day, they speak an archaic form of Albanian and maintain the traditions of their ancestors. During second half of the piece, the music livened up considerably. It reminded me, and I mean this in a positive way, of the best of the stirring propagandistic music that the former Communist regimes used to inspire their people. The orchestra was accompanied by Shkelzen Baftiari on the piano and featured solos by the orchestra’s leader, the Finnish-born violinist Alina Hiltunen. I was not alone in enjoying this piece; the audience loved it.

After the interval, the orchestra, as always directed skilfully by Olsi Qinami, gave a great performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony Number 4. Lasting just under an hour, the orchestra never flagged. Their account of this moving piece was exhilarating.

If you did not attend this concert, I feel sorry for you because you missed a great musical experience!



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