Maltese classical music compositions were the showcase at this year’s edition of Inclassica’s Classic Piano International Competition with its participants and eventual winner performing pieces from Malta’s most celebrated composers.
Taking place in Dubai, away from Malta because of COVID-19 limitations, the performance was the culmination of a two-year-long project, which saw 14 preliminary competitions held in prestigious cultural centres across the globe, such as Hamburg, Vienna, Washington DC, Tel Aviv, Seoul, London, Moscow and Yerevan, among others.
The five top-ranked participants from each event were invited to compete in Dubai.
The competition was part of the InClassica International Music Festival’s 30-day celebration of classical music in the Middle East featuring 37 world-renowned soloists, seven celebrated orchestras and 12 leading conductors.
Even though this year’s performance was taking place away from Maltese shores, the country’s music was given the spotlight it richly deserves.
During the first round of Classic Piano, the participants were asked to perform a piece from some of Malta’s most celebrated composers.
It was a breathtaking list of some of the most talented Maltese figures in classical music, which included:
- Charles Camilleri – Anatolia; Xnobis or Etudes nos. 4 & 5 from Book Three Picasso Set’ and Interlude II from Times of Day
- Mariella Cassar – Opus or Oriental Prints
- John Galea – Spirals
- Albert Garzia – Parts from Divergence and Consequence; Minute Miniatures; Rumanz (a tribute to Mozart) or Wacky Noise Thing
- Albert Pace – Tidwir Part I or II
- Reuben Pace – Asteroid Field
- Manoel Pirotta – Carnaval Triste; Deux Mignons; Triptych; Two Maltese Pictures or Victims of Ponte Morandi
- Joseph Vella – Scherzo or more than one movement from Sonatina
Joseph Vella even received some special praise by Dmitri Alexeev, Professor of Piano and Chair of Advanced Piano at the Royal College of Music in London, when he said “There were many works by Maltese composers, and all very different. Some of them I quite liked, for example, the Sonatina of Joseph Vella. In my opinion, this is a very serious work that deserves to be on the concert stage.”
The music, it appears, struck a chord among judges.
“A very wide palette of composition schools was presented. I am glad that the piano repertoire is expanding in this way,” Pavel Gililov, Professor of Piano at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, said.
“This music was unknown to the majority, and it seems to me that this is one of the very important initiatives, and we can only welcome such an initiative, which has become one of the goals of this competition.”
“We listened with interest to a variety of works. And, of course, they reflect the history of the development of music, because different Maltese composers can feel the trends of large European trends, from dodecaphony to naive painting, I would say… I am very pleased that the prize for the best performance of works by Maltese composers will be awarded.”
Hae-Young Kim, Head of the Piano Department at Chugye University for the Arts in Seoul, also had some kind words.
“This is the first time I’ve heard music by Maltese composers, and — especially for Korean people — it is quite unusual and very surprising in many ways. It seems there are many interesting pieces, and I learned in this competition that there are many very good pieces. There is also quite a range in the style of compositions, and some are very technical, not easy,” he said.
Michel Beroff, who is the First Prize Winner at the first international Oliver Messiaen piano Competition in 1967, Professor Emeritus at the Paris Conservatoire and Exclusive EMI artist for over 25 years, also had something to say about how Maltese music is influenced.
“I can see oriental influences in some pieces, sometimes it’s a bit of pastiche, sometimes I even felt the influence of French music. Some music has language which is more modern, although most of them are not avant-garde — pretty classical writing. Sometimes you hear a distinct Maltese sound to it, but an island like this of course has influences from everywhere which help to nourish the imagination of all composers”
Japan’s Yuki Amako and Russian-American Artem Kuznetsov gave stellar performances and shared the special prize for best performance of a Maltese composition.
The pair faced an impressive judging panel, which counted some of the world’s most respected and acclaimed performers, professors, composers and musicologists as its members.
The Chairman of the Jury was Alexander Tchaikovsky, the People’s Artist of Russia (2005) and recipient of the City of Moscow Prize for Literature and the Arts (2011), Dmitri Shostakovich Prize (2011) and the Government of the Russian Federation Prize for Culture (2016).
“In the first round, the contestants were offered a number of works by Maltese composers, which they themselves chose. And I must say that from this list I really liked several pieces, and there were very interesting performances from the participants…the impressions, both of the pieces themselves and of the performers, were very strong. For example, Albert Pace’s Asteroid Fields and Ruben Pace’s Tidwir are nice pieces. I want to bring them to Moscow and let them play at the conservatory or college. They are not so difficult, but they have their own specifics: you need to come up with your own images, these are such tasks for expressiveness. Any competition should be very attentive to contemporary music and encourage performances. I like to hear something fresh.” said Alexander.
“It turns out that everything is not so simple in European music. For me, Maltese composers are terra incognita. I would like to study this question more deeply in order to understand how typical these works are for the Maltese school of composition,” First President of the Ancient Music Centre of Riga and Professor at the Latvian State Conservatory Georgs Pelecis said.
The stellar competition and festival could not have happened without the European Foundation for Support of Culture, a non-profit founded in Malta by Armenian entrepreneur and philanthropist, Konstantin Ishkhanov.
“It gives me great pleasure to announce this special prize in recognition of ‘The Best Performance Of a Maltese Composition’. Maltese culture, without a doubt, holds a unique place in the world and is one which, while embracing multiculturalism throughout its extraordinary history, has forged its own unique identity,” Ishkhanov said.
“As a Malta-based organisation, we at the EUFSC are very proud to promote this initiative and to help export this island’s rich cultural heritage to new audiences around the world.”
The first prize of the competition went to Russian national Miroslav Kultyshev, who, in addition to a prize, will perform a tour of 20 concerts in Austria (Vienna, Salzburg), Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Russia (Moscow, Saint Petersburg), Switzerland, Turkey, USA, and the UK.
More information about this event can be found on InClassica’s official website.