HAPPENED TODAY - On June 16, 1852, the cellist and composer Joseph Merk died in Vienna

OLSI LEKA, The cello in madness

Olsi Leka is a cellist born in Tirana in 1980 and has been playing the cello since he was 6 years old boy. He was awarded in many competitions (in Belgium and Cyprus). At the age of 24, he was appointed cello soloist at the Belgian National Orchestra where he had the opportunity to collaborate with numerous important soloists and directors such as  Valery Giergev, Helen Grimaud, Misha Maisky, and many others.

After his debut CD, entitled “Reminiscence”, he now publishes, his “The cello in madness”. The CD begins with the three movements of the Sonata in D by Pietro Antonio Locatelli (1695-1764), in the arrangement for cello and piano by Alfredo Piatti (1822-1901), a classical piece of the cello repertoire, and continues with a series of fascinating 20th-century Belgian compositions all to be discovered: ‘Le vieux quai’ by the composer  Georges Lonque (1900-1967) e ‘Mosaïque’‘Trois mouvements’ and ‘Cadence et Allegro’, by the cellist and composer Eric Feldbusch (1922-2007).

Locatelli’s Sonata in D, in the Piatti arrangement, focuses on an interesting moment in the evolution of the cellist technique. After the years during which the cello had laboriously emancipated itself from its role of continuo, acquiring a new dignity and identity as “the instrument that more than any other recalls the human voice“, Piatti marks the point where it is mature to compete with the violin virtuosity. And so, in his cello transcriptions of violin compositions, Piatti fuses Baroque classicism, and the cadences and romantic passages consolidating a technique that, up until a previous period, was the peculiar expressiveness only of the violin. Piatti, however, in transcribing Locatelli’s Sonata, was undoubtedly animated also by the desire to make known a beautiful composition by an author from his land: Piatti and Locatelli were both born in Bergamo and both had started their careers in the Musical Chapel of Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.

So as Piatti devotes his attention to one of his fellow citizens, Olsi Leka focuses on two composers of Belgium, where he chose to live. In the second part of the CDs, he proposes, in fact, the recovery of compositions that would have probably, without him,  remained in oblivion in which they were. “Le vieux quai” (The old Dock), (recording n.4 of the CD) by Georges Lonque, a contemplative piece for cello and orchestra, inspired by the eponymous poem by the Belgian author Georges Rodenbach, in which the cello brings out the peculiarity of its sound, warm and intimate, thanks to a score of a clear post-romantic atmosphere with highly impressionistic, highly elegant and even impressionistic projections, was written in 1927, but was lost and was never published or recorded. Thanks to this music recording, it will come back alive and well-known, occupying its rightful place in the wide cello repertoire.

The compositions of Eric Feldbush proposed here certainly cannot be considered very well-known. Although they are of great interest as stages of a constant search for new expressive languages, they often appear charged with an expressive drama that, in an age like ours, aimed only at the search for empty musical hedonism, risk being abandoned in a corner like old memories of unpleasant moments in the history of humanity.

Olsi Leka’s tribute to the host country, Belgium, is certainly generous, and he courageously proposes authors yet to be discovered and valued. A tribute appreciated by the Eric Feldbusch Foundation which placed the Raffaele Gagliano cello of 1820 at its disposal, which Olsi Leka, accompanied on the piano by Piet Kuijken, used for recording the CD. A cello of great symbolic value, because it was given to Éric Feldbusch, in 1965, by Queen Elizabeth of Belgium on the occasion of the composition of the trio “Queen Elisabeth“.


The cello in madness

– PIETRO ANTONIO LOCATELLI, Sonata da camera op.6 in D (arr. A.Piatti): Allegro – Adagio – Minuetto
– GEORGES LONQUE, Vieux Quai, op.9
– ERIC FELDBUSCH, Mosaïque, op.14, Suite puor Cello: Improvisation – Ysmakh Moshe – Pana Dodeck
– ERIC FELDBUSCH, Trois Mouvements pour Piano, op.19: Fantasque – Grave – Variations
– ERIC FELDBUSCH, Cadence et Allegro, op.13 for Cello and Piano: Cadence – Allegro

Performers: Olsi Leka, cello – Piet Kuijken, piano
Label: Phaedra Music
Released: November 7, 2019

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