The embodiment of a versatile figure, Albert Paparisto

For years, a number of noteworthy publications have been collected for many of the most prominent figures of Albanian music; composers, singers, instrumentalists, etc. Surprisingly, no musicologist has yet worked on writing about any figure that belongs to its own sphere which is musicology. In this case, this place of honor would most definitely belong to the founding father of Albanian musicology, professor, Albert Paparisto. This honorary place does not limit itself only in his founding role in this field, but also with his general contribution to the consolidation of the tradition of the Albanian cultivated music.

Despite being one of the founding figures of Albanian music professor Albert Paparisto is fairly known at all. However, in music circles, especially those who have had the chance to meet him face to face (ex-students, colleagues) they hold much respect towards him. This not due to his prestigious positions (which he kept shortly), but for his seriousness, his wide culture and unquestionable professionalism that he constantly perceived.  As initiator of the foundation and first director of the State Conservatory, as well as the compilor of some of the study-programs of this institution, professor Paparisto is a figure of major contributions to the consolidation of the Albanian music school. He was the true embodiment of a versatile figure. Paparisto is known as a musicologist, composer, institution manager and pedagogue.

Albert Paparisto was born in Elbasan on October 21, 1925. He was part of a family of intellectuals. The four brothers of the Paparisto family; Kola, Sofokli, Ferdinand and Albert were personalities in their respective fields. Being a family of intellectuals, music was an inseparable part of their lives. Not only Albert, but all brothers were engaged in music, and respectively studied violin, regardless of what directions they chose to continue later. Among them, Sofokli Paparisto made a profession out of what he started only as general knowledge intake, devoting himself to teaching at the Artistic Lyceum, as well as at the Institution of Arts. Meanwhile Albert on the other hand devoted himself to musicology.

He finished his studies in Elbasan at the “Normal high school”, where he learned solfeggio, as well as playing violin and trombone. Like many youngsters of that time, Paparisto became part of the Anti-fascist National-liberation movement of the communist youth. It is understandable that after the war, due to his engagement in the movement, he had close relations with the internal structures of the party and the state, which you can easily figure out from his entitlement to work in the Central Committee’s apparatus of the ex-Party of the time. This explains naturally the fact why he was one of the young people of the time to win a scholarship abroad, in the Eastern countries, Russia.

Paparisto wished for something completely different from that of studying music, maybe medicine. He was very fond of the science of numbers and he was attracted by math. However, this wish of his never came true, because the leading structures of the Party decided for him instead. He was obliged to study music.

Thus, Albert Paparisto commenced his studies for Theoretical philosophy at the “Tchaikovsky” Conservatory in Moscow, on 1951. He was distinguished there as one of the best students, and his diploma was published by the Pravda newspaper. This to us is very important because we have to keep in mind that the Moscow Conservatory of that time was with no doubt one of the greatest conservatories in Europe and world. Taking into account the semi-formation non-systematic level with which Paparisto and other Albanian students went there, his achievements become even more impressing. He continued his path in Albania with the same pace and rhythm. With the quality of a well-formed musician and a good-like man, he became the central figure and guide in everything he undertook to accomplish; establishing and consolidating a whole structure of institutions of music life.

In the years 1956-1958 he was director of the music section in the Alliance of Writers and Artists. Now days there is absolutely nothing left of this institution. However, from Paparisto’s own writings, reveal his role and activity in this organization. As a secretary for music, he was one of the Albanian representatives in the works he conducted in Moscow, the second Congress of soviet composers of the 1956. Paparisto was also a figure that made a general overview of the upcoming developments of Albanian music at the Congress of Writers and Artists of 1957 (a speech that is published under the title “The state and duties of our music”, in the November magazine of the year 1957, which was dedicated specifically to this Congress).

In the years 1958 – 62 Paparisto led TOB (National Theatre of Opera and Ballet). Precisely during his leading, this institution recognized success, a step further in the professional aspect giving a push and developing the Albanian music of the time we are speaking of. This theatre had commenced its history long before Paparisto would be named director, and had made some appreciative progress. But under Paparisto’s directing, quantity speaking, there was witnessed a noticeable increase in the number of activities, but, above all, the expansion of the repertoire was fundamental. Now, except only Russian operas, Italian operas, French operas etc, were being put to stage, which were the base of a traditional repertoire in opera. Also, Albanian operas were important in the development of our music in regard.

While he was a director of the TOB, Paparisto was also appointed director at Tirana’s newly-opened Conservatory, in 1962. Directing two institutions at the same time may seem odd. But given the somewhat urgent circumstances in which the Conservatory was opened (January 15, 1962), the lack of materials or the development of the teaching process at the Opera Theatre’s premises, this double- work load of Paparisto takes some form of explanation. In addition, he had also been the initiating figure in the establishment of the Conservatory. However, he must have won the confidence of many, as to be trusted with the management at the same time of the two most important music institutions in the country.

Even though the future-development of this institution was quite uncertain, as it commenced with a severe lack of pedagogues, with a great lack of classes and auditors (in the first year they were 10 classes in total), the results achieved at the end of first year increased the expectations for the second year and in continuity. The institution started ‘producing” great students. To a large extent, this result, this prevailing discipline at the Conservatory was a result of the leadership of this institution by Albert Paparisto. Through his authority, he created a spirit of work that yielded its fruits shortly after. In addition to his position as a director of the Conservatory, he was also a lecturer of the theoretic class. But his activity as a lecturer was not limited only to these subjects. He followed all he disciplines that took place in the conservatory.

As a central figure of this institution, it was impossible to go unnoticed his character, those qualities that characterized him not only as a musician, but also as a human being. Creating a clear idea about his persona was nothing easy. Those who have known him and who cherish pleasant memories of him, through those few memories they try to speak about his complex figure and nature, a nature that was difficult to comprehend. He was enigmatic and quiet just as he was surprising with his willingness to help you when in need.

However, the course of events proved that authority and determination does not always win. He was hit by a surprising turn of events. While being committed to the maximum with the cultural and academic life in Tirana, in 1966 he was transferred in Shkoder where he remained for five years (1966 – 1971). This was some sort of punishment from the structures of the state party. The reason was the social class difference, which at the time were applied even in ones intimate life. He was penalized for marrying a woman who was politically affected. But when faced with the structured who asked for his separation from Ermelinda Paparisto (which many others would have obeyed the order) he reacted with determination and chose not to obey their order.

The years he spent in Shkoder would be fruitful for the development of his artistic life. Initially, he played as a conductor in the House of Culture, where he organized and led a great number of vocal and orchestral concerts with a Symphonic orchestra, such as: festivals, national meetings of music ensembles, etc. He gave his next contribution to the city’s music school, where the fists years of high school were organized under his guidance. Furthermore, he raised the school’s choir onto higher levels, making them known beyond local borders. The pieces interpreted by the choir were significantly difficult.

After finishing his years in Shkoder, Paparisto returns to Tirana, in the Higher Institution of Arts. But, this time, not as a director but as a simple professor. He had a feeling this would happen, since he was being transferred in Shkoder. However, his position as a simple professor did not discredited him or made him feel inferior at all.

Albert Paparisto continued teaching as a foreign professor in the institution he had founded in 1999. Eventually he decided to live decisively in the USA. Professor Albert Paparisto separated from life in November, 2014. He deserves a honorary place for all his contribution to the history of Albanian music.

 /Fjoralba Sukulli/

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