Bigger and More Ambitious 2014 Valletta International Baroque Festival
The unprecedented success achieved by last year’s first edition of the Valletta International Baroque Festival, which was attended by over 6000 people, encouraged the organisation of this second edition which will be held between the 10th and the 26th of January and which will include three weekends of Baroque performances and events for all the family as well as the much welcomed Baroque Ball.
Full details of this year’s programme were announced during a press conference which was addressed by Kenneth Zammit Tabona, Artistic Director of the Valletta International Baroque Festival, Jose Herrera, Parliamentary Secretary for Culture and Local Government and Dr Michael Grech, Chairman of Teatru Manoel, which is the organiser of this Festival.
In his address, Kenneth Zammit Tabona explained the uniqueness of the Festival which takes places inside a number of baroque churches, palaces and venues inside Valletta which further promote the baroque identity of our capital city. This year’s venues include the Painted Salon of the Museum of Archaeology, the former Auberge de France, the Hall of St Michael and St George at the Presidential Palace, the churches of St Nicholas, the Jesuits, St Catherine’s, Ta’ Ġieżu, St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral and St John’s Co Cathedral and of course the Teatru Manoel built in 1731 and still going strong as the living heart of culture in Malta.
“This Festival, which started from an ambitious idea, rapidly gained so much popularity both in Malta and overseas due to the unique venues and the very appealing programme of concerts by leading international and local baroque exponents. This year, it is promising a bigger and more rewarding experience and we are so looking forward to these three weeks of Baroque extravaganza,” said Artistic Director Kenneth Zammit Tabona.
“The Festival will this year kick off on Friday 10th January at the Ta’ Ġieżu church with the staging of Handel's monumental Messiah by the Anon and Goldberg Ensembles led by Maestro Michael Laus. This will be followed by a very interesting and unique production with life-sized marionettes of a parody of Rameau’s Hypolite et Aricie by the Centre de la Musique de Versailles. This revival by Versailles will be given its world premier in the Manoel Theatre over the initial weekend; Saturday the 11th in the evening, a Toi Toi event on Sunday morning followed by a matinee at 5pm and a special school performance on Monday morning.
The year 2014 marks the 250th anniversary of the death of Jean-Philippe Rameau, one of the most important French composers and music theorists of the Baroque era. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the 2014 edition of the Festival will be celebrating this anniversary with four performances of Rameau’s compositions. There are three other concerts in the festival that will be celebrating the life and works of Jean Philippe Rameau; Galerie des Portraits on the 16th by harpsichordist Beatrice Martin and Les Folies Francoises, Airs Enchantees performed by the Kolner Akademie on the 23rd and Villains and Lovers by Les Bougies Baroques on the 26th.
Mr Zammit Tabona also noted how this year’s edition will also host no less than four great religious works. The monumental Bach B Minor Mass by the English Concert under the baton of the celebrated Harry Bicket at St John’s Co Cathedral on Monday 13th is definitely the most splendiferous of all followed by Handel’s Messiah by the local Goldberg and Anon Ensembles directed by Michael Laus on Friday the 10th, a very special Bach meets Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater with international star, countertenor Max Emmanuel Cencic, on the 21st January and Monteverdi’s Vespers on the 18th of January.
The Festival will this year also include three Baroque Sundays with performances and events for all the family. The lined-up late morning, early afternoon and early evening events will transform the usual rather quiet Sunday in Valletta into something rather exciting as music lovers of all ages move from Church to palace and from restaurant to museum and back to the theatre after tea.
No baroque festival can be complete without some great Bach work and this year the performance of the entire set of Brandenburg Concertos by Concerto Koln on the 14th. More Bach double keyboard concertos on the 15th with soloists Marco Sollini and Salvatore Barbatano at the pianos with our Malta Philharmonic under Michael Laus’s baton. A very interesting transcription of the Goldberg Variations for double bass, violin and viola on the 18th January will certainly prove to be intriguing while we have Cantatas and a Bach piano recital on the 26th January by Joanne Camilleri who has recently released her Bach CD.
Mr Zammit Tabona thanked the Government of Malta for its support towards this very ambitious project which has enhances Malta’s presence in the cultural tourism map while immeasurably enriching our own cultural heritage within gems of our cultural patrimony. He also thanked the other major sponsors who have re-committed themselves for this year’s event namely the Malta Tourism Authority, the Hotel Phoenicia. Air Malta, the ADRC Trust, Tipico and Island Caterers and collaborating partners St John’s Co Cathedral Foundation and Valletta 18.
Thanking the organisers of the Festival, Hon Jose Herrera expressed his confidence that this year’s second edition will again exceed all expectations. “I myself cannot wait to experience these splendid performances all of an international calibre that has been put together by the Manoel Theatre and its indefatigable team. This brings me to the raison d’être of the festival which engraves its line of radiant beauty on an otherwise dull and anticlimactic month. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Despite dire prognostications and pessimistic predictions, last year’s festival was a great success. This is why my government decided, without hesitation to repeat it and augment it by establishing the Valletta International Baroque Festival Ensemble.”
“Therefore on an artistic level the festival proves to be a revelation, yet on a more pragmatic level the unique setting of Valletta attracts many baroque aficionados from overseas during what tourism authority’s term as lean months. The fact that the entire festival is fully financed by the government of Malta enables us to keep the ticket prices low and the bonus here is that hotels that would have otherwise closed for the months of January and February are booked up.”