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News 05 Jan 17

Vienna Orchestra Hits Wrong Note With Rama's Critics

Monday's historic performance of the Vienna Philharmonic Ensemble in Tirana was a sell-out - but critics of Prime Minister Edi Rama's cultural policy say the attention being given to such European stars is excessive.

Fatjona Mejdini
BIRN
Tirana
Violinist Shkelzen Doli and members of Vienna Philarmonic Ensemble performing on Monday in Tirana. Phot: Edi Rama Facebook

Prime Minister Edi Rama's plan to bring top European art and music to Albania is meeting headwinds, as some criticise the cost and complain that local art is being shadowed.

The debate followed the world-famous Vienna Philarmonic Ensemble performance in Tirana early in January alongside an announced exhibition of art from Italy.

Alda Bardhyli, culture editor at "Shqip" portal, told BIRN on Wednesday that Rama should be congratulated for these moves, although it was important not to politicize them.

"There has been criticism of how the Vienna Philarmonic Ensemble was organized in Tirana, but it should be seen as an attempt to put Albania on the map of European culture.

"It should be seen as a wish by modern troubled Albania to speak of its ancient European identity," she noted.

Bardhyli also suggested that initiatives like this should include more Albanian artists in future.

On January 2, Tirana welcomed 36 musicians from the Vienna Philarmonic Ensemble, led by the Albanian violinist, Shkelzen Doli.

They performed much-loved classics such as the "Blue Danube", while wearing the Albanian qeleshe - the national costume - and making a toast with traditional "raki" fruit brandy.

Rama also announced that Albania will host another show of European masterpieces for the first time later in January.

"We want to establish a tradition of bringing rare art experiences for the Albanian public like the Viennese concert in Tirana, while in the beginning of 2018 we want to bring an original art collection from the Picasso museum in Paris," Rama announced on December 18.

While the concert by Doli and the Vienna Philarmonic sold a record number of tickets, there was criticism of the sum of over 100,000 euros that the organizers took from the Albanian Ministry of Culture.

Petrit Vasili, MP and leader of the parliamentary group of the Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI the junior party in Rama's ruling coalition, said local artists could have done the same job for less.

"The orchestra of Albanian Public Radio and Television could perform concerts like this since it is a professional body," he said.

"Albanians have listened to the 'Blue Danube', done by this orchestra- and Albanians know to drink 'raki' better and 'qeleshe' look better on their heads [than on Austrian heads]," Vasili told the media on Tuesday.

Bardhyli said the show of Italian paintings from the first half of the 20th century was good news, as these works that are normally found only in the Museum of Modern Art of Rome.

However, she said it was important to invest more in the local art scene.

"It is urgent to invest more in cultural policies in the country, and there is a big need to do so when it comes to the visual arts," she said.

Albanian artists have long complained of the tiny sums that the government allocates to the main arts institutions in the country such as the National Theatre and the Art Gallery.

In August, Ilir Kerni, the well-known director of Albania's National Theatre of Opera and Ballet, quit in frustration over the lack of funds for the institution that he was directing.

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