The Malta International Organ Festival, now in its fifth edition, is being held from Thursday to December 7.

It is made up of 16 concerts to be held in cathedrals, churches, basilicas and chapels in Malta, another three in Gozo and two masterclasses. Among the star guest performers in this edition is organist Sergio Orabona from Italy, who will be opening the festival at St Francis of Assisi church, Valletta on Thursday performing Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in G minor – nicknamed the ‘Great’, and Poulenc’s favourite masterpiece – Concerto in G Minor for Organ, Strings and Timpani. 

A new composition by Maltese composer Karl Fiorini was commissioned for the fifth edition celebrations. This new composition, titled Quatre Miniatures Romaines is scored for baritone, organ, strings and percussion, and uses poetry by Sophie Charpentier. 

The festival is also a platform for young Maltese organists

Festival organiser and artistic director, Joseph Lia said that some of the world’s most prominent international organists will be performing during the festival, such as Giacomo Benedetti, Marco D’Avola, Diego Cannizzaro, Christian Schmitt, Petra Veenswijk, Gail Archer and Mariella Mochi. The festival will also be a platform for young Maltese organists like Franco Cefai and Jurgen Grima, offering them both a prestigious performing platform and free masterclasses to improve their technique.

The organ at St Francis of Assisi church in Valletta.The organ at St Francis of Assisi church in Valletta.

Dr Lia added that this year, MET Opera of New York soprano Olga Makarina will be joining mezzo-soprano Dina El from the US to perform Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, under the baton of Italian conductor Simone Valeri at St Mary Magdalene church in Valletta on November 22. Makarina sang under the direction of various world-famous conductors like James Levine, Valerie Gergiev, Yehudij Menuhin and Bruno Campanella.

Another highlight during this year’s festival will be an organ recital at Our Lady of Victory church in Valletta on November 20 of Maltese and Sicilian composers on the 18th century positive Santucci organ that was found recently after being lost for several years. This organ was recently restored by Robert Buhagiar.

Other interesting events will be an organ and guitar recital at St Bartholomew church in Tarxien, All’Italiana concert at Gudja parish church and a concert presenting famous Christmas melodies from around the world, arranged for organ, flute and cello at St Barbara church in Valletta on December 2.

The concerts being held in Balluta, Balzan, Mdina, Paceville, Tarxien, Gudja, Senglea, Safi and Għaxaq, and Nadur, Ċitadella and Fontana, will include the participation of several musicians combining local and foreign talent, showcasing Maltese heritage and the power of the organ used as a solo instrument, as an accompanist and as part of an ensemble.

The festival will reach a climax with its final concert on December 7 at St Augustine parish church in Valletta, featuring works by Handel, Corelli and Telemann. The Valletta International Baroque Ensemble (VIBE) will be conducted by Italian conductor Stefano Molardi. Molardi is an authority in baroque music in Italy. He will be joined by Joseph Lia to perform Telemann’s Christmas Cantata, a nice way to start the Christmas season.

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