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Melodious première

Nicola Mazzanti performing at the première of Concerto for Piccolo Opus 14 which was dedicated in the memory of Fr Peter Serracino Inglott.

Nicola Mazzanti performing at the première of Concerto for Piccolo Opus 14 which was dedicated in the memory of Fr Peter Serracino Inglott.

Concert
The Composer Conducts
Manoel Theatre

On Friday, March 23, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra’s composer-in-residence Joseph Vella conducted four works connected by a fundamental and rudimental feature of music: melody.

German composer and pedagogue Paul Hindemith, wrote Fünf stücke für Streichorchester Opus 44 as part of a holistic educational approach to music.

This is the last, most complex piece of the Schulwerk für Instrumental-Zusammenspiel. This collection of four works of progressively increasing difficulty, aims to allow musicians to refine their ensemble and orchestral playing.

The main melodic parts were generally played by the first violins, with brief contrapuntal answers by the other strings.

The tone colour, dynamics and articulation were ably juggled by the string orchestra creating the required atmospheres of serenity in the first and fourth movements as opposed to a more lively and energetic musical material in the third and fifth.

In the second movement, starting in slow tempo, which became faster, the orchestra clearly and effectively tackled the various answering entries; while the concertino-like string quartet of the fourth movement was excellently played by the section leaders.

A demanding fifth movement was a show piece for orchestra leader Marcelline Agius who exhibited crisp technique in a very long ostinato-like, fast musical motif. The evening’s highlight was the world première of Prof. Vella’s Concerto for Piccolo Opus 14 written for and performed by Italian virtuoso Nicola Mazzanti. Prof. Vella dedicated this première to the memory of Fr Peter Serracino Inglott, whose funeral was celebrated earlier that day.

Mr Mazzanti and the string orchestra were joined by the timpani, which provided important rhythmic vivacity to the composition. Written in the standard quick, slow, quick movements, the concerto is characterised by changing, irregular time signatures making it a technically challenging, but extremely beautiful work. Mr Mazzanti glided with ease through the leaps, runs and technical difficulties of the score.

The second movement in nocturne-like style gave way to a deeper, calmer and more openly structured melodic line which seemed to be constantly leading the listener to the next musical event.

Frequent time changes made this section sound like a written improvisation. The last movement used the very interesting technique of building a solid and carefully crafted musical structure, ably decomposed and dissolved leaving the finale in suspense. The motivic nucleus is played by the piccolo and rounded up by the timpani concluding the concerto.

Two concertos for two pianos with a fully blown orchestra made up the second part of the evening. Pianists Natascha Chircop and Marco Rivoltini teamed up to perform the concertos by Harl McDonald and by Sir Malcolm Arnold.

Both works are technically very demanding. The concerto by McDonald makes use of dialogue between the two pianos fraught with Rachmaninov style dense chords in long segments of the first movement.

The piano playing was such, that it seemed there was only one pianist playing massive and improbable chords.

The last movement was an intriguing Mexican dance with powerful and ener-getic rhythms very well interpreted by the performers.

Written for Phyllis Sellick and Cyril Smith (who had lost his left arm) Arnold composed his concerto for three hands.

Chorale-based accompaniment by sections of the orchestra characterise this work in the first movement.

The final movement had a jazzy energetic feeling which was charactarised by swift tempo shifts from simple to compound time very well tackled by all performers.

In both concerti, the second move-ments were full of lyricism and the orchestra elegantly supported the pianists’ cantabile tones.

The very well-balanced orchestra allowed the necessary space for the soloists to produce their best bringing an enjoyable evening to an end with yet another success for our national philharmonic orchestra.

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