For half a century, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra has been Malta’s leading musical ensemble.
The orchestra was founded in April 1968, when musicians from the defunct "C-in-C" orchestra of the Malta-based British Mediterranean Fleet regrouped as the Manoel Theatre Orchestra. It continued to serve as the theatre’s resident orchestra until September 1997, when it became an independent orchestra, taking up the name National Orchestra of Malta in the process. The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra assumed its present name in 2008 when it was expanded into a full-size symphony orchestra bringing together the best of Maltese talent and musicians from Europe and beyond.
The last conductor of the C-in-C orchestra, Joseph Sammut, was the orchestra’s first conductor, remaining at the helm until 1992. Since then, the orchestra has also been under the direction of Joseph Vella and Michael Laus. In September 2014, Brian Schembri joined the orchestra as its principal conductor and artistic director, while Michael Laus became its resident conductor.
As Malta’s only professional orchestra, the MPO is in high demand, performing in over 70 concerts every year, including symphonic concerts, opera productions in Malta and Gozo, community outreach and educational programmes as well as various concerts of a lighter nature. Its busy schedule notwithstanding, the MPO has increasingly ventured beyond Malta’s shores in recent years, having undertaken its first overseas tour back in 2001. Since then, it has collaborated with numerous orchestras and opera companies and performed in leading venues across the globe, including in China, Italy, Germany, Austria, and Belgium.
Over the years, the orchestra has performed with many renowned artists including Karl Jenkins, Joseph Calleja, Andrea Bocelli and Bryn Terfel, acclaimed conductors such as Michalis Economou, Peter Stark, Jean-Marc Burfin, Wayne Marshall and Philip Walsh, as well as pop stars including Claudio Baglioni, Suzanne Vega, Michael Bolton and Anastacia.
The MPO also has a number of recordings to its name. Its CDs include a project with international record label Naxos featuring works by Maltese composer Charles Camilleri and two CD series published by Cameo Classics, Music of the 19th Century Jewish German Composers and British Composers Premiere Collections. A CD featuring the music of Polish composer Alexandre Tansman with the CPO Label is set to be released in 2018.
The MPO is a keen exponent of Maltese composers, regularly performing their works in Malta and abroad and premièring — as well as commissioning — new compositions.
It is also responsible for the orchestral training and professional development of the next generation of Maltese musicians, through the MPO Academy and the Malta Youth Orchestra, which itself regularly gives concerts across Malta. At the same time, it is actively involved in organizing educational programmes for children, through workshops and special performances.
While it celebrates 50 years of music, the MPO remains intent on delivering quality orchestral music to the Maltese islands, all the time continuing to promote Malta’s musical heritage overseas.
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