In The Press

“This is not the sort of thing I would normally say, but the performance of Debussy’s Violin Sonata that opened this programme was the best I’ve heard by a country mile. Such vivid, imaginative, brilliant playing is rare indeed. Everything about it radiated from a powerful musical and dramatic intelligence that imbued the music with vitality and excitement. In other hands such treatment might have overwhelmed the piece itself, but not here. Later in the concert, Bartok’s Second Sonata received a similar display of visceral musical exposition. Among a clutch of shorter pieces, Alda Dizdari’s account of Schoenberg’s Phantasy was as persuasive and compelling as the composer could have hoped for. Three pieces by Sibelius – Ballade, Berceuse and The Bells – had substrata of emotional complexity beneath their simple surfaces, and Webern’s Four Pieces op.7 were dynamic. The final ponticello phrases held the audience rapt. By the time Dizdari came to Ravel’s Sonata to finish the programme, one could almost take her virtuosity for granted. The expressiveness of her bowing was a thing of wonder and the last movement was almost scary, as well as joyful.”

Tim Homfrey, Strad Magazine [July, 2012]

“Alda Dizdari is full of energy. The delicately built violinist is constantly moving. Her smile never withers, and the choral-red lips and the energetically raised eyebrows run into an ”extra gear” before she plays the passages in the music that she particularly cherishes.

Other musicians with such an expressive presence, risk drowning the music. Alda Dizdari is never caught in that trap. She is a formidable technician, at times certainly virtuoso, and she also has the courage to play in an outright sneering way. She is without compromise, and her musical surplus is as large as her sound.

Albanian born Alda Dizdari is on home ground in ”Sonata number 3 in A minor” by the Romanian, George Enescu. The folkloristic work reeks with Balcan and Gypsy rhythms which give her the opportunity to show her true fiddler soul. Here as also in Ravel´s ”Tzigane” she is unrivalled. One is certainly in good company with a musician like Alda Dizdari who dares to put all at stake.”

Lene Kryger, fyens.dk [August, 2018]

“The Albanian violinist Alda Dizdari, has been featured as Gramophone’s “One to Watch” (5/11) and this disc, taken from a Wigmore Hall recital, confirms a remarkable talent […], it’s obvious that Dizdari and Blach are giving their all and not considering possible retakes. The Janáček is truly passionate, rougher than Repin and Lugansky’s recent studio recording (DG, 3/11), but this music, I think, actually benefits from moving beyond purely beautiful sounds (Janáček seeks to agree, writing feroce at the start of the finale). When not aiming at ferocity, Dizdari’s tone is notably rich and expressive – especially in the Part, played with a very modest degree of slowish vibrato. The Hungarian Dances are given with great panache but the highlight of the programme, for me, is the Enescu. In a work that depends so much on performing style, and with such detailed instructions, Dizdari and Blach seem to get both the spirit and the letter just right. I felt sure they must have listened to Enescu’s recording with Dinu Lipatti.”

Duncan Druce, Gramophone Magazine [October 2011]

Testimonials

“Alda Dizdari is a phenomenon. She has all the qualities one looks for in a great musician: superb technical skills, a deep knowledge of the repertoire from Bach to the present day, and above all an extraordinary sense of inwardness with the music itself. She is, as the greatest musicians are, a perfect servant of the music: she interposes no mannerisms or intellectualisms, allowing the musical work to speak for itself in every phrase. These are deeply felt interpretations, but also deeply understood; in her unaccompanied Bach one hears classicism as well as rich expressivity at one and the same time.

For more than 40 years I have had a special interest in the music of George Enescu, a great composer as well as a great violinist. I have heard many recordings and performances over the years, by some of the best violinists in the world. But where his marvellously luminous and haunting – and technically challenging – Third Violin Sonata is concerned, there are only three players that, for me, have got absolutely to the heart of it: George Enescu, Yehudi Menuhin, and Alda Dizdari.”

 

Sir Noel Malcolm [author of ‘George Enescu: His Life and Music’]

“Alda Dizdari’s playing combines technical prowess with strong ardent musical feeling— expression & intellectual understanding fused into complete interpretation , whether of classical or contemporary repertoire, that leaves nothing to be desired.”

Robin Holloway [English composer, academician and writer]

“Absolutely Outstanding! I was not only impressed with Alda’s extraordinary talent but also found her story particularly touching.”

HRH Princess Michael of Kent

“The nice thing about falling in love with a piece of music — as opposed to a person — is that it doesn’t make you feel possessive. On the contrary, you long for other people to love the music too. In the case of Alda Dizdari, a stunningly gifted violinist from Albania, now based in London, one such love affair has taken over her life for several years: a passion for Elgar’s Violin Concerto.

Browsing in a London shop three years ago, she bought a CD of the first recording of the concerto, by the almost self-taught violinist Albert Sammons and the conductor Henry Wood. A couple of hours later, by an uncanny coincidence, she found in another shop Wood’s copy of the score, full of his annotations. She then immersed herself in the work, listened to other recordings — including a superb performance by the 16-year-old Yehudi Menuhin, conducted by Elgar — and read volumes of the composer’s correspondence and the memoirs of his friends.

“As a foreigner who’s lived here for quite a long time now. I feel about this music in a special way,” she says. “The old qualities of Britishness are so hard to describe — kindness, nobility, awkwardness, superiority, sense of entitlement, sense of humour and an emotional depth that can be hard to read. Although I’ve felt at home in this country from day one, and am a British citizen, I know I’ll never be British like that. But I love these qualities in Elgar. “Perhaps I identify with him because he also knew what it was like to be an outsider — a Catholic in a Protestant country, and an English composer whose musical allegiance was to the German tradition.”

When she had mastered the concerto, she gave herself the task of bringing it to people who had never encountered it before. Months of planning led to an odyssey of concerts in Albania and Romania, with local orchestras; in some cases, they had never played it or even heard of it. (“They knew about the Cello Concerto,” she says, “but this one was much less well known.”) In the process, Elgar’s music became even more interwoven with her thoughts and feelings, as she was retracing the steps of her early life.

Dizdari was born into a musical family in Tirana (her father, Limos Dizdari, 76, is the country’s most famous living composer) and started learning the violin as a small child. But one day, in the political turmoil of the mid-1990s, she came home to find that her parents had been thrown out of their home without warning. Fearing for her safety, her father sent her to a specialist music school in Romania, where she powered her way through the competitions and emerged as a star performer.

A judge at one competition was the Romanian violinist Sherban Lupu, who taught at the University of Illinois; he was so impressed, he arranged a full scholarship for her there. Then she moved to London to study with David Takeno at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. For almost two seasons, she was guest leader of the Allegri String Quartet. (“But at that time I only had an Albanian passport, and getting the visas for our foreign tours became a nightmare.”) Now she is a sought-after teacher for a group of gifted students at the Junior Guildhall and the Purcell School.

With this roundabout history, does she feel she belongs to any particular national tradition or style of playing? “Not really — music is universal. I suppose my first teachers, in Albania and Romania, derived ultimately from the Russian school, with a square, solid approach to technique and a sound that could be shiny or austere. I wanted more warmth than that.”

She certainly acquired huge technical skills — a reviewer in The Strad magazine (the monthly bible for violin lovers) has described her bowing as “a thing of wonder”. But she adds: “I never felt really at home in that tradition, because I always wanted the technique to serve the musical expression, not to be treated as a separate body of skills.”

Her years in Bucharest did give her one special benefit, though: they introduced her to the music of George Enescu, who was not only a great violinist (famously, Menuhin’s teacher), but one of the most original composers of the 20th century. His Third Violin Sonata, “in the character of Romanian folk music”, and his extraordinary, little-known Impressions of Childhood, for violin and piano, are two of her favourite works. They pose huge technical challenges, but are the sort of music, brimming with expressivity, that a merely efficient technical approach could never master.

This is the sort of music at which Dizdari excels. Ravel’s notoriously demanding Tzigane is another such piece, where her playing, while technically perfect, brings such expressive power to the music that it feels in places almost like Stravinsky. “I love that period from the 1880s to the 1940s — Brahms, Fauré, Ravel, Elgar, Enescu. Contemporary music interests me, too — I used to play in the Ensemble Modern under Boulez — but not when it is just going after ‘effects’. I want structure and melodic meaning.”

Her repertoire is wide, from Beethoven to the British composer Robin Holloway, but the foundation of everything is Bach. “I could spend my life studying and playing unaccompanied Bach. It’s always work in progress. Every time you come back to it, there is more to learn, more to feel, more to love.”

All this talk about loving the music is not an affectation. “There’s no point in teaching music just as a craft or a skill. I want my pupils to love the music, cherish the feelings it gives and want to communicate them. When they get that, they actually want to practise.” She does not apply this only to her high-flying pupils at the elite schools. Five years ago, she founded the DEA Music Academy, a not-for-profit organisation giving lessons to underprivileged children in Southwark, London. “Every term, the children put on a concert. We’re teaching them life skills as well as musical ones, and it’s amazing to see how much talent develops with the right kind of encouragement.”

For now, though, the Elgar concerto remains love No 1. “Giving the first performance in Tirana was such a moving experience. The other work in the concert was my father’s First Symphony — and he was sitting in the audience. Living under communism 40 years ago, he could express his real feelings only through music. Hearing his symphony again, I could sense all the longing in it.

“And in Elgar I feel the same power of expression, that complete openness of feelings, direct communication that goes straight to the soul with no waste. It’s hard to explain — the way this concerto has entered my soul has been the biggest surprise of my life.”

Sir Noel Malcolm [as featured in The Sunday Times]