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Maestro Schembri ‘abandons’ final national orchestra performance

Young conductor from Armenia flown to Malta to cater for emergency

Conductor Brian Schembri is at loggerheads with the National Orchestra management over a new contract.

Conductor Brian Schembri is at loggerheads with the National Orchestra management over a new contract.

A concert by the National Philharmonic Orchestra last Saturday, which was to close the season in style, ended up in controversy when the conductor Brian Schembri did not turn up for the performance.

Although an announcement before the start of the concert said that “Maestro Schembri was not available due to unforeseen circumstances”, sources close to the orchestra said the real reason was “a massive clash” between Mr Schembri and the National Orchestra’s management.

Mro. Schembri had promoted the concert on his Facebook account.Mro. Schembri had promoted the concert on his Facebook account.

The Times of Malta is informed the issue had been brewing for a long time and that the government-appointed board, which finances the orchestra, is considering taking disciplinary action against Mro. Schembri for “abandoning his duties.”

National Orchestra members told this newspaper that Mro. Schembri had not turned up for rehearsals the previous week even though Saturday’s concert was being marketed as a closing ‘big’ concert.

“On the Tuesday before the performance we went for rehearsals and Mro. Schembri did not turn up. We were told that there were issues and that the chairman [Sigmund Mifsud] was tackling the problem,” a member of the orchestra said.

“The next day, we were told to go for rehearsals at a different time as we would be having a new conductor. Then, we found out that a young conductor from Armenia was flown to Malta to cater for the emergency as our conductor and artistic director was nowhere to be found,” another member said.

When contacted, chairman Sigmund Mifsud confirmed that last Saturday’s concert was led by another conductor but said that he would not like to comment publicly on the issue.

The same stance was adopted by Mro. Schembri when contacted.

The Times of Malta is informed that the main issue is about the conditions of a new contract which Mro. Schembri is asking for and which appear to be resisted by the Orchestra’s management.

“What happened is very unprofessional on Maestro Schembri’s side as he should have still honoured his contractual obligations despite any problems he might have with the management,” a member of the orchestra said.

The concert still went ahead and was very much appreciated by the audience, an official at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, the venue in Valletta for the concert, said.

It was conducted by Sergey Smbatyan from Armenia.

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