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Movie Spectacular draws large audience

Concert
Malta Philharmonic Orchestra
Director Kevin Abela
MCC

Good music of whatever genre, and good music well-performed, is always a source of pleasure. For a number of years now the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, whether in concerts like this one or when it officially went pop on other occasions, reaches out to as wide an audience as possible.

A large audience turned up to fill the Republic Hall of the Mediterranean Conference Centre almost to capacity for Movie Spectacular.

Presented by Pablo Micallef, the concert consisted of a number of works either in their original scoring or in various arrangements. The orchestra was conducted by Kevin Abela who is the MPO ’s lead trumpeter, but of course this evening he directed all his energy into welding his colleagues together into a well-knit and generally balanced team.

The only occasions when this was not at its best was when, in Mr Abela’s own arrangement of Morricone’s Once Upon A Time In America, the orchestra, especially the brass section, was far too powerful and there were moments when it drowned out the beautiful voice of mezzo-soprano Vanessa Camenzuli, who vocalised parts of the main title. Fortunately the same did not happen in the previous section from the same soundtrack, The Man With The Harmonica (Philip Zammit).

In Frantic, a rather exciting arrangement by Paul Borg of Piazzolla’s Libertango, soloist Albert Garzia gave a good account of himself except that he too was at times overpowered by the full force of the orchestra.

The other soloist this evening was the London-based virtuoso jazz trumpeter Alex Bezzina in his own arrangement of Moon River and the big blow-out from Mancini’s Breakfast At Tiffany’s, complete with a breathtaking cadenza which crowned this dazzling and balanced performance.

Quite aptly the evening had begun with the familiar 20th Century Fox fanfare by Alfred Newman.

The choice of music from well-known and perhaps less familiar film tracks was balanced in the contrasting intensity and feeling of the pieces. Miklós Rózsa’s Rowing Of The Galley Slaves from the epic Ben Hur was doom-laden and built into a tremendous clashing climax, while Stephen Schwartz’s Prince Of Egypt provided a comparatively serene break before the onslaught of the horror inherent in a three-part Suite from Jaws by John Williams.

It was a different John Williams in Leia’s Theme from Star Wars, and Lalo Schifrin’s Mission Impossible was projected with a lot of excitement and adventurous spirit. On the other hand, another Kevin Abela arrangement of Nicola Piovani’s La vita è bella had that unavoidable poignant bitter-sweetness about it.

In the concluding four excerpts the same balance prevailed when the mainly-relaxing arrangement by Wayne Grima of Mark Mancini’s August Rush was performed sandwiched between the high-flying and often-lilting Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by Patrick Doyle and the excitingly menacing Pearl Harbour by Hans Zimmer (arr: Kevin Abela).

The grand finale was another Paul Borg arrangement, that of Yuji Ohno’s Lupin. Well, not quite the finale because there was an encore with a lot of punch: Bill Conti’s theme from Rocky, featuring trumpeter Alex Bezzina.

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