Malta Philarmonica Orchestra
The Orchestra was founded on 1st April 1968 and was originally known as the Manoel Theatre Orchestra. It comprised a number of musicians who previously formed part of a chamber orchestra in the employ of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Navy (Malta), better known as the C-in-C Orchestra that was disbanded one day earlier. It was the orchestra in residence at the homonymous theatre and 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 as the National Orchestra of Malta. Ten years later, in December 2007, precisely during the Budget Speech by the Hon. Prime Minister Dr. Lawrence Gonzi, the Orchestra was given the go ahead to start the process to augment its musicians complement to Philharmonic levels. The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra or Orkestra Filarmonika Nazzjonali in Maltese was launched on the 12th January, 2008, on the occasion of the official Euro change-over celebration concert marking Malta’s entry into the Eurozone.
The predominant influences of the various cultures in the Mediterranean Region has not only affected the Maltese way of living but left indelible marks on the development of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. The demanding repertoires by Italian, English, German, French, Austrian and Russian composers among others, so much imbedded in local music tastes, has often seen the Orchestra performing as a large symphony orchestra thanks to the excellent co-operation that the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra enjoys with important Orchestras in Europe.
The Orchestra’s extensive calendar of events consists mainly of symphonic concerts at the Manoel Theatre, the Mediterranean Conference Centre and other venues apart from opera productions in Malta and Gozo as well as abroad.
Since January 2005 various projects were taken assiduously to tackle our musicians’ performing standards. Co-operation programmes with foreign orchestras were initiated which led to various learning and cultural exchanges. In the run-up to the orchestra’s growth, various musicians have been invited from one of the leading orchestras in the Czech Republic, the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, to play in concerts with our own musicians, whilst similar opportunities with other orchestras in Europe were developed, particularly also with 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 chamber formation, during the season 2001-02. In Belgium the Orchestra performed at the City Hall in Brussels under the direction of Michael Laus, who still occupies the post of resident conductor to date, while in Sicily, in collaboration with the Teatru Manoel (Malta) and Operalaboratorio of Palermo, it took part in a five-performance production of Mozart’s Cosi’ fan tutte at Palermo’s Teatro Orione. 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 evocative ruins of Villa Adriana in Tivoli.
In August 2006 the members from the string sections of the Orchestra teamed up with the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra through EU’s Leonardo Mobility Project which enabled a number of our string musicians to join one of the world’s top orchestras in workshops and two concerts held at the Spilberk 2006 Festival in Brno, Czech Republic, under the direction of Petr Altrichter and Leos Svarovsky respectively. In January 2007 the Orchestra joined the Orchestra Sinfonica di Pesaro in two concerts at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Valletta in Malta and the Teatro Gioacchino Rossini in Pesaro, Italy, under the direction of Paolo Ponziano Ciardi and Michael Laus respectively.
More recently, in March 2008, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra performed Rossini’s La Cenerentola on two consecutive nights with great success at the Palazzo dei Congressi in Lugano, Switzerland
Among the many distinguished conductors and soloists who have performed with the Orchestra one can mention Peter Stark, Charles Olivieri-Munroe, Paolo Ponziano Ciardi, Rene Clement, Brian Schembri, Eugeme Kohn, Jonathan Butcher, Alexander Rudin, Sergei Glavatsky, David Campbell, Roberto Cominati, Andrea Griminelli, Igor Ardasev, Carmine Lauri, Lukas Vondracek, Mats Rondin, Cecilia Gasdia, Ghena Dimitrova, Miriam Gauci, Joseph Calleja, Andrea Bocelli, Jose` Carreras, Kate Aldrich, Daniela Dessi, Fabio Armiliato and the Royal Choral Society of London.
The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra is traditionally invited by the President of the Republic of Malta to perform in state concerts in honour of the various distinguished visiting Heads of State.
The Orchestra is a predominant exponent of Maltese composers and one of its ambitions is to promote Maltese compositions beyond our shores and make them known to important international music centres as well as to a wider public around the world.
The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra shall continue to organise community projects from time to time. Music education programmes bring the orchestra and its music to the widest possible audience through interactive music making, performing for children of different ages and involving them in creative talks and workshops.