Çesk Zadeja is the composer who with his creativity established his own epoch between various epochs in the history of Albanian music. He is positioned in the center of a time span, where behind him in time there are the Albanian classical musicians of the first half of XX-th century, and after him, always in time, the newer generations of Albanian musicians. The phenomenal Zadeja constitutes the notion of what can be taken as a benchmark for the musicians, composers who worked with a national conciseness in various genres of the Albanian spiritual musical creativity, which was based on the ethnicity of these people. Of course, the terms ‘national’ (although it may sound outdated) and ‘individualism’ changed from the north to the south of Albania, but also differed between the local composers and those from outside the country.
Lec Lurti, Mikel Koliqi and Prek Jakova in their work followed the urban Shkodra music, borrowing also from the romantic-patriotic European music; Martin Gjoka and Tish Daia were inspired by the northern Shkodra motifs and those of the areas further in the east; Tonin Harapi cultivated the urban wedding melos; going further down in the south, Thomas Nasi and Kristo Kono worked with the folk melodies coming from the Tosk and Korca area, Fan Noli would intentionally move towards an “archaic” musical sound aiming to bring back ancient feelings, antiquity civilization or victorious times to be intermingled with Byzantine motifs up to extracts taken from St. Mathew Passions. While the composer from Berati, Murat Shehu in his symphonic works used the music and songs of his own town, these reference points that touch in a general way the panorama of the Albanian savant music, taken all together, were the reference points to Chesk Zadeja as well.
But did Zadeja have any knowledge about the Albanian non Shkodra composers? Was he aware, since the beginning, about the path he would follow? It is difficult to say this. Zadeja was part of a rule more than part of an exemption. He would continue in a conscious way what Buzuku, Budi, Bardhi and Bogdani had done to help the national cause by translating the wholly Christian books, written in the Latin alphabet. This was an influence of the Italian renaissance of the 15-th and 16-th century and the rationalization and illumination of the following centuries.
We don’t know when and how did the classical, savant music develop in Shkodra in the previous centuries, but the local church music has accurate dates starting from mid 19 century. Italian instrumental groups, as well as other groups coming from Dalmatia, had made Shkodra a favorite place for the organization of their seasonal musical activities, not only in the churches but also in open areas. The catholic colleges in Shkodra organized periodical musical activities, and according to the documents I have available, they date back to 1902. The well-known Shkodran surnames are written in the concert programs, amongst which Bushati, Bumci, Naraci, Simoni, Laca, Kodheli, Rota, Gurakuqi, Mosi, etc., and amongst them Zadeja.
In the Zadeja family, besides the father of Cesk, Rrok Zadeja, founding member of the artistic society “Bogdani”, there were also other exponents of literature and music, such as the elder uncle Gasper, folk singer and composer, Andrea, Luigj, Dom Ndre Zadeja, the later poet and composer of melodramas, and of course Tonini, Cesk’s brother, a well-known musician and critic. Cesk Zadeja had the pleasure to inherit a relatively rich regional cultural background, where besides the above mentioned names we should mention also names of the folklorists Bernardin Palaj and Gjon Kujxhia.
It is true that church music has influenced the local musical practice and tradition of some of Shkodra catholic composers; moreover it is a fact that this tradition embodied strong regional and national characteristics. The three main tendencies that embody motifs of the cultivated Shkodra music: the urban music based mainly on Shkodra folk, the music with motifs from the area above Shkodra, and further to the east and the music based on the tradition of the romantic European tradition; these three tendencies aimed the creation of a national character, i.e. Albanian ethnicity. This in itself constituted a heritage, a tradition. Cesk learned a lot from Martin Gjoka and the latter had learned from Frano Ndoja. Ndoja worked in the path of Palok Kurti, using Shkodra urban and folk music, who had taken the knowledge related to the musical techniques from the Italian artist Giovani Canale, who obviously brought this knowledge in Shkodra from his own country. But Martin Gjoka brought in Shkodra another experience taken from Austria. So, as we can see from this retrospective overview, the cultivation and preservation of Shkodra urban folk by composers with professional attributes, often found this music dressed with romantic western notes with regards to the harmony, form or working with the local music material.
This was more or less the panorama before Zadeja left for his studies in Moscow (1951-1956) after having studies for two years (1941-1943) at the Santa Cecilia Academy in Rome. In Moscow, under the direction of the composers who have inherited the Russian musical culture fused with a series of techniques of western music, he adjusted to himself composing techniques, the narrative form of the musical citing. Contrary to his predecessors in music, being from Shkodra or any other area in Albania, who had mainly worked with motifs and feelings related to the zones of their origin, Zadeja paid attention to a creativity incorporating a national-wide spirit, pan-Albanian, by working with epics, as well as heroic and festivity motifs.
He referred to melodic analysis from different areas in Albania and in particular, he composed pieces based on characteristics of certain areas, from Geg, Labëri and Tosk areas.
On the other hand, his attention was concentrated on those local characteristics that could merge together in the form of a specific Albanian ethos.
So he will gradually create his portrait as a thoughtful musician wherer the primary position was to be given to the intellectual narration, articulation of zonal expressive means and a little bit less the articulation of the form, to be enriched further on with dance extracts from the North, which expressed the dynamics and optimism, with epic-heroic situations based on Laberia pantomime, and Toskë as well, and such characteristics were protected and encouraged by the ideas and method of socialist realism. Was Zadeja influenced by this method? Undoubtedly yes, the same as Shoctakoviç, Prokofievi, and Haçaturiani in the Soviet Union. Did this method influence the quality of his work? Çesk dominated the musical thought in Albania for approximately 40 years. He, with some exceptions, knew how to avoid works with a pre-established program, or with an illustrative declaration, and at the same time he knew how to “protect” the ideas of the “method” in question by empowering the national character, about which he was fully sincere and deviated the euphoric socialist spirit. For Zadeja, the notion of nationalism, of the national psychology, was not a dogma imposed by the socialist method; it existed in his being in his consciousness, he believed in his notion because this was his cultural background inherited from native town and the high school where he followed his studies. His being almighty in the Albanian musical world was a strength of his mind; he controlled the time, maneuvered with it, was always alert, did not become euphoric but at the same time did not fall in apathy.
This self-control was also reflected in his music. In his work you find distinctive melodies, striking and inspiring themes, which at the same time were reserved in their expanding, as if he tried to keep himself away from overwhelming. This was more evident in the years when he was writing “Delina” and the following years, i.e. in the 50s-60s. Did this self-control come as a result of a new stage he reached in his knowledge in the ethical music or was it the time that imposed him this sense of “being careful”?. In the second half of the 70s and in the 80s a new period started in his works, the period of creating the musical cells based on the motifs of urban folk, dramatic tension, abstracting the musical language, often aiming towards dramatization. I have the impression that Zadeja in his last creative period, in the 90s, in particular with the “Tre skicat per orkester”, he released his feelings, poetry and humor derive from his soul, he has a clear musical language, eloquent, and with a perfect sense of creation and narration. As if he wanted to say: “Lord, give me some more time because now I can express myself freely, openly, now I can say my true words”.
Zadeja wrote in almost all musical genres. He did this because he felt himself capable and secure in the genres he wrote, in particular in the symphonic and instrumental music. But he also did this to show to the Albanian musical world that he would become the benchmark of a certain genre with Albanian character. Time proved, and continues to prove, that his works constitute the basic repertoire of our instruments and orchestras. The factor time always remains the one factor which distinguishes between the good work and the less good work. This is only the beginning of the appreciation of Zadeja values. The coming generations, I am sure, will contribute in this aspect. Zadeja was as innovative and complex in his best vocal-symphonic works, and as simple in his creations for the amateur groups. This was his social character. Like nobody else, he wrote an incredibly big number of such pieces for the May concerts. A part of them, were written for more income within the narrow socialist salary limits, but most of them remain, even today, professional and serious creations. One of them is “Suita No. 1 per Orkester”. Its simple social character did not simply aim to bring a little bit more humor and joy; this character was completely natural, it was the source of good and useful friendships. Through the contacts with the leaders of amateur groups, he did not merely test the pulse of time but he made this pulse more “down-to-earth” in how it was written. He did orchestrations for those instruments, which existed in these groups, for the practical vocal capabilities of the amateur vocalists. But, was every piece of his work perfect? Of course there were uncompleted pieces, especially amongst the dances of these amateur groups, but how many other composers in the “socialist” system accommodated such needs when the time and social system dictated such demands? Didn’t Shostakoviç do the same in his operetta “Cerjomushki”, without mentioning here other very talented Soviet composers as well as others in the countries of “popular democracy”? I should underline here that even in this point, Zadeja believed in the demands of the time, just like other composers, the demand to support the amateur movement. Above all, it is better to discuss with non-professional artists than having coffee and no fruitful discussions in places where the intellectual artists got together. He would go to the bars when he wanted to say his word, when he needed to protect the music as well as himself. It is said that often the tone of Zadeja in conferences was not very clear. And this is true, when he needed to overcome delicate situations of the ideological character, he became less clear, while when he wanted his message to be heard, he was one of the comprehensible and convincing personalities. His publications in Newspaper “Drita”, sometimes general and avoiding, but in most of the cases strong and unwavering, were proof of his intellectual strength and expression.
For a period of thirty years, Zadeja gradually took the look of the father of Albanian music, not merely due to his works and publicities, but also due to the obligation he assigned to himself to prepare the new composers. In this area, his results were magnificent. We are not talking only about those who were directly lectured by Zadeja, but also about the other musicians who indirectly profited from the experience he never hesitated to transmit to them. If you give a look at this group of composers you do not see ‘stamps’ in their pieces, on the contrary you note a development of individualities. What distinguishes the musicians who rigorously followed the esthetic principles of Zadeja, in the best cases and best works, is the comprehensible thought, form and specific compositional techniques and above all using with art and finesse the urban and rural Albanian folk. We should not forget that the presentation of the most advances compositional techniques until the 90s could not pass without any problem at all, particularly pure personal creations following the desired wave, were completely impossible.
Just like other composers, Zadeja was aware of this reality. Within this reality he continued his search and experimented with his works, giving ideas outside the frames dictated in the method of Albanian music. So this was completely different from what was articulated in the press and conferences, differently said, differently done.
An analogy: in 1931 Shostakoviç expressed refutation to the work of Skrjabini, his bourgeois- decadent” esthetics. “We consider Skrjabini”- said Shostakoviç “as our most sour enemy in music. Why? Because his music is inclined towards an unhealthy erotica. At the same time it is inclined towards mysticism, passiveness and getting outside the reality. ”
Albanian musicians and esthetics, with the best sense of orientation, were stimulated by these signals in the articulation of the musical language by Zadeja, others referred to sayings and facades. The 70s and 80s were unclear times in the professional Albanian musical thought. At that time started the discussions about musical esthetic principles and capacities. New works often needed to be protected by their own composers, and this was done through attacks from both poles. Those discussions, often very emotional, belong to the past and to the historical process of the artistic Albanian music. What have remained are the creations. Nowadays, with a newly born democracy, selection is less imposed. The instrumentalists are those who will select the works, critics will be able to evaluate them without euphoria and passionate views towards one or the other author. Time is an important factor in this selection of esthetic tastes and concepts. The works of Zadeja give signs of long life.
Zadeja appears keen in editing, observing, and processing of a series of academic works done by the new musical researchers. He was also involved in the academic programs for the schools of music. He was positioned in the center of the Albanian music world. Also the state and patriarch authorities needed him. He found his way with them, just like Kadare in Albania and Shostakoviç in the Soviet Union. There were many composers who wanted to see the approval of Zadeja before their works came into light. They believed in his knowledge, suggestions, and goodwill and when appropriate, his influence in the intellectual musical thought.
For a period of five years I could not see Zadeja, due to my moving to England. In the last two years of his life we communicated a lot, may be not as much as before, however we had many things to share. He had informed me about a part of the news in the letters he sent me in England. They are personal letters, sincere, and I felt closer to him as he described to me the economical difficulties he and his family were going through; he also wrote to me about his happy moments such as meeting up with his colleagues at the “Russian Composers Union” after 40 years. Amongst other lines in his letters, he wrote: “Our national culture needs to be recognized, respected, revived in these times of deep and spiritual crises ……. At least this is what I think….”
In another letter he continues: “ I cherish the fact that health-wise I am doing fine, at least I can stand on my feet, both of them …….. moreover when I recall the death of Simon, Nikolla, and recently Tonin who suffered a lot and died in despair. A perpetual disgrace.”
I am putting an end to these words about Zadeja with another fragment from one of his letters, from which I do not intend to underline any compliment that he makes to myself, as it often happens between friends, but I want to stress the professional and friendly cooperation I have had with him, in the same way as with other composers, to let you see the profound feelings and devotion he had, often like those calorsiac gestures, by taking away from themselves their values and attributes and giving them to the others. He wrote that: “Due to my own nature I am not very telling, but I can not leave without thanking you for the special attention you have paid to my modest music during the whole difficult career. Rightfully I can call you co-author as your attentive playing, full of feelings and inspiration has made possible for many of my works to gain the ‘citizenship’, to walk had in had with the time….”
Although his words are too eulogies and noble, it is very true that in the music of Zadeja I find a very clear expression of his intellectual ideas and the more I play his works the more new ideas and sentiments plot a course through my being.