“The Stolen Cello”
Redi Hasa:Dajti Mountain – Cherry Flowers [Lule Qerchie] – Wave [Dallga] – Little Street Football Made of Socks [Topi Me Çorape] – Seasons Going By [Stinët Që Kalojnë] – 1990 Autumn Escape [Ikja e Vjeshtës 1990] – The Snow [Bora] – Shadows Drown on The Streets [Rrugët Që Prisnin Hijet] – The Silence of the Trail [Heshtja e Malit] – Time – Butterfly [Flutur] – The Prayer of the Moon [Lutja e Hënës]
Ludovico Einaudi (piano), Redi Hasa (cello)
Recording: Unknown (Date: Unknown) – 46’30
DECCA Records B08633YNN2 (Distributed by Universal Music) – Booklet in English
Albanian cellist Redi Hasa grew up in a musical family and started playing at age six. At 13 he could play Bach solo rep, and the young musician continued on a promising career path studying at the state run music schools. But his plans were interrupted in 1989 as Albania descended into civil unrest after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the anarchy that followed in the Soviet Bloc countries. Hasa’s brother urged him to get out of harm’s way and join him in Italy to begin a new life. Hasa took his state-owned cello with him.
Thirty years later, Redi Hasa is now an internationally recognized multi-genre classical musician, known to global audiences as the cellist in Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi’s touring ensemble. He is on Einaudi’s 2019 series of recordings: Seven Days Walking that topped the British classical charts.
“The Stolen Cello” is Hasa’s first solo recording, and it is a showcase of what he calls the ‘singing’ qualities of the cello. The recordings are also his musical memoir about his journey to freedom. Hasa’s classical and traditional musical lineage is radiant in this recording and musically.
Over the 12 tracks, it is an engrossing orchestral song cycle. It starts most dramatically with the instantly atmospheric opening Dajti Mountain that evokes uncertainty and resolve of “hope and survival”, as Hasa notes in the press release. The stirring 1990 Autumn Escape essays a musical journey articulated with basso cello passages in counterpoint to his dervish fingering on the bridge. Hasa performs with unfussy virtuosity in full flight, to breathtaking effect.
The Silence of the Trail is a somber meditation with sonorous string lines and pianist Ludovico Einaudi’s mystical counterpoint. On Cherry Flowers and Little Street Football Made of Socks, Hasa uses the body as a percussive instrument. These dreamy musical memories burst open into polyrhythmic pizzicato with strumming and fiery bowing illustrating vivid scenes from his life. With The Snow [Bora], Hasa carves out chromatic lines against an echoing distance soundscape gives way to surging strings and hints of a haunted waltz floating on those Adriatic Sea winds he traveled through. Percussion and cello effects is an eerie throwback to the 80’s Eastern European avant-pop electronica.
Butterfly, is also a fusion piece of with light allegro that floats, suddenly veering into burnished and ominous soundscapes. Hasa’s The Prayer of the Moon is a fusionist composition with soft meditative passages that glide to dissonant bending notes that flame out to infinity. Albanian folkloric musical styles fueling Shadows Drown on The Streets is a polyrhythmic dance mosaic of urban life.
Redi Hasa’s compositions have that singing quality and are cinematic in the best sense. These tracks reach for transporting musical realms and, meanwhile, Hasa’s technical artistry entrances throughout.
Lewis J. Whittington