Gaulitana’s last three concerts

Colin Attard directing the Gaulitana String Orchestra in three popular works at St Francis church in Victoria.

Colin Attard directing the Gaulitana String Orchestra in three popular works at St Francis church in Victoria.

The last three concerts in this year’s Gaulitana Festival in Gozo had a link between them. It began with the violin and piano recital at the Gozo Ministry hall by the Gran Duo Italiano, consisting of Mauro Tortorelli (violin) and Angela Meluso (piano).

They launched into this memo­rable concert with Franck’s Violin Sonata in A, for which I have a deep predilection. It was simply superb, exquisitely performed and, of course, it provides parity of prominence to both performers. It needs two master musicians and a special rapport between the two.

This was almost tangible, and I was not at all surprised to find out after the recital that the two musicians are husband and wife.

The duo also enjoys promoting works by unjustly neglected past violinist virtuoso-composers. So it was not surprising that they performed a delightful  Fiori di Napoli by Camillo Sivori, Paganini’s only pupil, and Rosario Scalero (1870-1954)’s Variazioni sul Barucabà di Paganini.

They concluded with Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Capitan Fracassa, Op. 15, maintaining a very stylish delivery that characterises their music-making.

The warm appreciation of the audience paid dividends with the two encores that ensued. The first was Elgar’s popular Salut d’amour while the second was the prolific and long-lived Gaetano Fusella (1876-1972)’s Mazurka Svedese.

The duo had a rest on the Saturday, when part of the festival weekend’s activities included a very tasty experience at Vini e Capricci, thanks to the inventive efforts of chef George Borg and his team.

The following Sunday morning and again at the Gozo Ministry hall, Angela Meluso accompanied Egyptian flautist Mina Ghobrial in a very interesting and unusual recital. There was a mix of classical pieces like Fauré’s Sicilienne Op. 78, and later his Pavane Op.50. It was lovely, relaxing and balanced playing, as was the case with the Minuet and Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice and a more modern Nocturne et Allegro Scherzando by Philippe Gaubert.

What was so novel is the different techniques and pretty amazing effects the flautist produced in some of the solo pieces he performed. Some of these technical details I had heard before but not all of them in one recital as in this case. The breathing, the quasi-vocalising, glissandi and other quirky but very evocative touches enhanced Bassam Halaka’s The Drunken Flautist and Ghobrial’s own Inspiration a la Gare de Lyon.

Meanwhile, Henri Tomasi’s Pastorale was quite a straightforward piece, as was Telemann’s  three-movement Fantasia N. 10 in F# minor, which in its time was quite a pioneering piece.

Ghobrial’s bravura resulted in clamouring for more, and he delivered it with Meluso’s support in Monti’s famous  Csárdás, and his last solo piece was his own Big Ben open vision.

The closing concert of the festival was held at the church of St Francis in Victoria, with Colin Attard directing the Gaulitana String Orchestra in three popular works. First there was some Mozart with a touch of elegance in Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525.

The concert continued with Mina Ghobrial giving a splendid show again in Doppler’s far from easy Fantaisie Pastorale Hongroise, Op. 26. He followed this with an encore, Debussy’s haunting Syrinx.

Then with Meluso joining the strings at the harpsichord and Tortorelli as solo violin, the ensemble performed Vivaldi’s Le Quattro Stagioni, bringing the festival to a fittingly joyful and accomplished conclusion.

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