After a long and illustrious career with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra which recently saw him take up the role of artistic director and principal conductor, Maestro Brian Schembri announced this week that he has been dismissed of his position. In a Facebook post shared on Tuesday afternoon, however, Schembri explained how the whole thing was “humiliating, unfair, abusive and, in my opinion, illegal.”
Schembri explained how the decision actually came last August, when under the Executive Chairmanship of Mr. Sigmund Mifsud, the MPO Board unanimously decided to terminate his contract. Schembri said he wouldn’t as yet go into specific details as to why and how this unfurled, but he did elaborate on his experience.
“For the moment, all I can say is that I have never in my life been treated so basely and disrespectfully by persons in authority who were supposed to support me in the job they themselves engaged me to do,” Schembri said. “That is, to develop the orchestra to the levels that, by common consent, were hardly imaginable before.”
It didn’t take long for Schembri’s very frank status to start making the rounds. One of Malta’s biggest stars, Joseph Calleja, was among the first to step in. “Whereas I am not privy to the other side of this sad story, I can definitely vouch for the fact that we don’t have artists like Brian Schembri growing on trees in Malta,” Calleja said. “There is no denying the great work he has already achieved with the now excellent Malta Philharmonic and it would be a great big pity if a compromise to retain the Maestro’s services is not reached. In the hope that good sense will prevail.”
He wasn’t the only one, though. At the time of writing, the post has over 600 reactions and 100 shares, with many people from the music scene and politicians expressing their thoughts. “This corrupt government is draining the brains and replacing the brains with drains, literally,” ex-Forza Nazzjonali leader Marlene Farrugia commented.
“Malta is so similar to EU rogue states Hungary and Poland in its disregard of good governance and in its promotion of lackeys and mediocre apparatchiks for Government posts,” ex-Alternattiva Demokratika leader Michael Briguglio said. Current Alternattiva Demokratika leader Arnold Cassola also chimed in, throwing in a dig at Rockestra (which MPO Executive Chairman Sigmund Mifsud is heavily involved with).
This sentiment was also echoed by Mario Vella, the outspoken frontman of the popular local band Brikkuni. “Sigmund Mifsud, supposedly another musician, who seems to be busier trying to preserve Rockestra than working to maintain the big jump in class which the Orchestra enjoyed thanks to Brian’s hard work.”
Malta’s cultural and political celebrities weren’t the only ones with something to say about this latest development, however, and soon, Schembri’s wall was filled with people thanking him for this service and demanding a protest.
“Whatever the reasons behind the dismissal, this is not exactly the type of polemic we need just a few months before V18 starts,” one person said. “International standard conductors don’t grow on trees, and with Malta being so small, we don’t have a forest of them.”
“Brian Schembri is one of the best things that ever happened to the arts scene in Malta,” another said. “This is a bad mistake.” Other people described the whole thing as “heartbreaking, disgusting, disappointing, and confusing”. “I just woke up and already dreading participating in the Maltese creative and artistic community,” a potential collaborator with V18 said.
The whole thing comes just two months after Schembri hadn’t turned up for the closing performance of the MPO in late June. Back then, an announcement before the start of the concert had said that the Maestro wasn’t available “due to unforeseen circumstances”, but sources close to the orchestra had said that the real reason was “a massive clash” between Mr. Schembri and the MPO management.
Last June, The Times of Malta was informed that the main issue was about the conditions of a new contract which Meastro Schembri was asking for and which appear to have been resisted by the Orchestra’s management.