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Malta Philharmonic Orchestra Tours Iconic European Concert Halls

Malta Philharmonic Orchestra Tours Iconic European Concert Halls

The MPO performing at Prague's Smetana Hall

This May, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra returned from a landmark European tour.
OhMyMalta caught up with Malta’s foremost musical institution to find out more

From 28 April to 5 May this year, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) embarked on a four-concert tour of Central Europe, visiting Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria. The tour, presented by the European Foundation for Support of Culture, follows over two years of reduced concert activities following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, and comes hot on the heels of several stunning local performances.

The tour is notable not only for its significance following
COVID-19, but also due to the wealth of prestigious concert halls visited. The tour began on 28 April at the world-renowned Berliner Philharmonie, a hall noted for its stunning acoustics and unique architectural design, followed by a performance at Prague’s Smetana Hall on 1 May, part of the city’s Municipal House located on the site of the old Royal Court Palace. A concert at Bratislava’s Reduta Building — a former Baroque granary originally built in 1773 — followed on 4 May, before the tour concluded with a performance at Vienna’s world-famous Musikverein on 5 May.

The MPO European Tour 2022 welcomed the distinguished American violinist, Stella Chen, and was directed by the orchestra’s Principal Conductor, Sergey Smbatyan. Ms Chen rose to international prominence following her win at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 2019, and is notable for being the youngest ever prize-winner of the renowned Yehudi Menuhin International Competition. The stellar violinist joined the orchestra to perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, as well as contemporary composer Alexey Shor’s Phantasms concerto. Other works featured in the programme included excerpts from Aram Khachaturian’s Spartacus Ballet Suites, and the Intermezzo from Il-Wegħda by Charles Camilleri (1931–2009) — the first opera to feature a Maltese-language libretto.

The MPO performing at Bratislava's Reduta Building

he MPO performing at the Berlin Philharmonie

Charles Camilleri is one of the country’s most prolific composers of the 20th century, and is credited for bringing Maltese, and, more widely, Mediterranean music to an international audience.

The orchestra was founded in April 1968, following the disbandment of the “Commander-in-Chief” orchestra of the Malta-based British Mediterranean Fleet, before serving as the resident orchestra of Valletta’s Manoel Theatre until 1997. The ensemble regrouped as the National Orchestra of Malta before expanding to a full-sized symphony orchestra in 2008, taking on its current mantle as the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra.

Despite the difficulties faced by cultural institutions over the past two years, the MPO has remained active and relevant during this time, embracing a Digital Transformation strategy which has attracted over 32 million unique viewers across 46 countries around the world.

This recent tour followed the MPO’s last visit to the continent in 2018. When asked about these latest performances in the context of the orchestra’s continuing development, CEO Sigmund Mifsud said: “We mention the importance of touring for our orchestra on numerous occasions. More pertinently during this tour, as some audience members who had attended our past performances in places like Berlin and Vienna remarked upon the orchestra’s development. This further underlines our belief that the challenges and opportunities of performing in prestigious platforms on tour enhances the quality of our musicians.”

To learn more about the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, including details on upcoming performances,
visit their website here.