Malta National Orchestra performs in Dubai
The Malta Philharmonic has just returned from its first international tour since the start of the pandemic. Lara zammit Dubai reports.
The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra performed at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai with a three-concert series as part of the InClassica International Music Festival.
Performing between September 14-16, Malta’s National Orchestra presented a program featuring Maltese and international composers as well as soloists Joseph Calleja and Mischa Maisky, among others, conducted by conductors Sergey Smbatyan and Dmitry Yablonsky.
The first concert, Concerto Extravaganza, opened with the composition Xamm by contemporary Maltese composer Albert Garzia. Under the direction of Grammy-nominated conductor Yablonsky, the orchestra performed Garzia’s symphonic piece while fully inhabiting its varied tropes, from profuse swells to stillness and calm.
The public was then treated to the symphonic work of Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat major, Op. 73, called in the English-speaking world “the Emperor”.
Beethoven’s last piano concerto, the first movement of the composition, opens with an E-flat chord for the entire orchestra, alternating between orchestra and piano.
World-class pianist Severin von Eckardstein joined the orchestra here, skillfully performing Beethoven’s piano solo with both analytical technique and unqualified freedom. The strings opening the second movement played a rather sad theme, the piano solo responding tenderly, followed dramatically until the last moments of the piece.
The second part of the concert featured Antonín Dvořák Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104, combining stillness and expressiveness, drama and fanfare.
Here, cellist Gary Hoffman combined technical mastery and poetic sensibility in his distinctive performance, fully incorporating the warmth and strength of composition into his performance.
The second concert in the series – Opera Gala: From Malta with Love – starred the famous Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja and was conducted by the principal conductor of the orchestra, Smbatyan.
One of Malta’s most important musical ambassadors, Calleja has performed some of the finest tunes in the French and Italian repertoire, including Ah! get up, sun! by Charles Gounod Romeo and Juliet, The flower you threw at me from Bizet Carmen and that of Verdi Quando le sere al placido of Luisa miller.
Calleja also performed works from her latest album The magic of Mantovani, including that of Leonard Bernstein Married of West Side Story, as well as the famous You will never walk alone of Carousel.
The performance also starred Charles Camilleri Opening and celebration of the Knights of Malta ballet suite, further celebrating the contributions to classical music of Maltese artists.
The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra has performed masterful interpretations of acclaimed instrumental opera classics by Verdi and Mascagni, among others, as well as semi-classical pieces, including two by Ennio Morricone.
The final concert, Tchaikovsky – Melodious Inventor, starred soloist Mischa Maisky, considered one of the most important cellists of our time.
The concert opened with a piece by contemporary Maltese composer Alex Vella Gregory titled Riħ, taken from his Sinfonija Beltija. The short five-part Tschaikovskian Suite brought together a wide range of elements, with its titular wind representing the natural elements that interact with the city of Valletta on a daily basis.
“Whenever we travel our main priority is to include music by Maltese composers”– Sigmund Mifsud
The soloist Maisky performed Variations on a rococo theme and Nocturne for cello and orchestra as examples of the composer’s melodious invention.
Finally, the finale included an interpretation of excerpts from the work of the Russian composer. Swan Lake ballet, marking the end of the National Orchestra’s tour of Dubai.
These concerts marked the orchestra’s first international tour since the start of COVID-19. The pandemic had also been disruptive for the InClassica festival, which was originally scheduled to take place in Malta but had to be postponed due to restrictions on public events requiring a change of venue.
Talk to Malta timetables Regarding the impact of the pandemic on the festival, Malta Philharmonic Orchestra CEO Sigmund Mifsud said that despite the difficulty posed by the change of plans, the orchestra was still up to the task.
“This tour was particularly important as it was part of the international music festival InClassica, which was originally to be held in Malta. As the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, we were partners of the festival organizers, namely the European Foundation for the Support of Culture, under the direction of Konstantin Ishkhanov.
“We had high expectations of this festival because it was meant to be a big event marking the tenth anniversary of the organization organizing this festival.
“InClassica lasted over a month; few classical music festivals last this long. Therefore, it was not easy for the organizers to change everything when it could not happen in Malta. They must have organized everything in a very short time in Dubai, and from our side, since we were part of this festival, we were invited to go to Dubai.
“We are of course disappointed that the festival could not take place in Malta, but every cloud has a silver lining. It was the first time that the orchestra had the opportunity to perform in Dubai, and we were very excited about it.
“We believe we have created some kind of hope for the local cultural sector by having managed to go on a tour in these difficult times,” he said.
Asked about the program of works selected for this tour, Mifsud said showcasing Maltese composers was their top priority.
“Whenever we travel our main priority is to include music from Maltese composers, and this time was no different. Besides the solo repertoire, where the orchestra accompanied renowned soloists, the other part included music by Maltese composers, which this time included works by Charles Camilleri, Albert Garzia and Alex Vella Gregory.
“Then there is also the so-called standard repertoire in classical music, which highlights the orchestra and proves its high level, comparable to more renowned international orchestras”, argued Mifsud.
As the audience left the arena at the end of the concerts, some could not help but hum excerpts from the music they had just heard, as if trying to prolong the experience as much as possible. The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, which clearly stands out among the best musicians of the classical genre, has certainly left its mark.
The MPO performed at the InClassica International Music Festival presented in Dubai by the European Foundation for the Support of Culture and SAMIT Event. More information about the festival is available at inclassica.com.
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