Malta Philharmonic Orchestra
The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (Maltese: Orkestra Filarmonika Nazzjonali) is the national symphony orchestra of Malta. It was founded in 1968 and was originally known as the Manoel Theatre Orchestra, where it was in residence for both opera productions and orchestral concerts. In September 1997 the orchestra became an independent body and was officially named as Malta's national orchestra. Its current Music Director is Brian Schembri.
The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra was founded on April 1, 1968, and was originally known as the Manoel Theatre Orchestra. It was composed of a number of musicians who had previously formed part of a chamber orchestra in the employment of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Navy (Malta), better known as the C-in-C Orchestra that had been disbanded one day earlier. As the orchestra in residence at the Manoel Theatre, it regularly performed operas and symphonic concerts under the direction of its resident conductors Joseph Sammut (1968-1992) and Michael Laus (1992-1997).
In September 1997 the orchestra became an independent body and was officially named The National Orchestra of Malta. Its first resident conductor was Joseph Vella. Ten years later, in December 2007, the orchestra was expanded to a full-size symphony orchestra and performed for the first time as The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra on January 12, 2008, on the occasion of Malta's entry into the Eurozone.
Starting in January 2005, co-operation programmes with foreign orchestras were initiated. These have led to various learning and cultural exchanges with orchestras such as the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra Sinfonica di Pesaro, Orchestra e Coro di Milano La Verdi, Orchestra e Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana, and others.
The orchestra toured for the first time, in its previous form as a chamber orchestra, during the 2001-02 season. In Belgium the orchestra performed at the City Hall in Brussels under the direction of Michael Laus, who is still its resident conductor, while in Sicily it took part in a five-performance production of Mozart's Così fan tutte in Palermo. In June 2003, the National Orchestra participated in the production of Leonard Bernstein's Candide at Rome's Teatro Argentina, followed by a concert in the ruins of the Villa Adriana in Tivoli. Further concert tours followed, namely, a joint venture with the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra in Brno in 2006, in Pesaro in 2007, and in Lugano and Zaragoza in 2008.
In 2014, Brian Schembri was appointed principal conductor of the orchestra, succeeding Michael Laus (1991-2014).
The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra has performed with distinguished conductors and musicians in both concerts and operas. Soloists who have performed with the orchestra include Cecilia Gasdia, Ghena Dimitrova, Miriam Gauci, Joseph Calleja, Andrea Bocelli, José Carreras, Kate Aldrich, Daniela Dessi, Johanna Beisteiner and Lydia Caruana. It is also a leading exponent of Maltese composers with the ambition to promote Maltese compositions and to make them known to a wider international audience. The orchestra's extensive calendar of events consists mainly of symphonic concerts at the Manoel Theatre, the Mediterranean Conference Centre and other venues, as well as opera productions in Malta and Gozo and abroad. The orchestra also ventures into the light popular repertoire with dedicated concerts scheduled during the spring/summer months. It has education programmes for children, involving them in workshops and creative talks on topics that cover the whole spectrum of music-making.
List of world premieres (incomplete)
- 2015: John Galea – Ave Maria, St. George's Basilica, Malta.
- 2016: Karl Fiorini – De dioses y de perros (Of gods and dogs) for soprano, choir and orchestra, Mediterranean Conference Centre (Malta) during the International Spring Orchestra Festival.
- 2017: Reuben Pace – Concertino for guitar, harpsichord and orchestra, Manoel Theatre, during the Valletta International Baroque Festival.
- Baldacchino, Lisa Gwen, "New premises for Malta Philharmonic Orchestra", The Times of Malta, 12 September 2008, Accessed 6 February 2009.
- Storace, Albert, "A dazzling and colourful show of Saint-Saëns", The Times of Malta, 21 December 2011, Accessed 21 December 2011.
- Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, History. Accessed 6 February 2009.
- Christmas concert – Malta Philharmonic Orchestra.
- Fiorini’s world premiere. Article by Ates Orga, Times of Malta, 15th of May 2016.
- Malta is more. Article by Bernd Hoppe on the website Opera Lounge, January 2017. (German)
- A baroque world premiere. Article by Iggy Fenech, Times of Malta, 22nd January 2017. (English)