Impeccably behaved music, this. The composer, Charles Camilleri, was born in 1931 in Hamrun (Malta). He is clearly fiercely patriotic. His ballet suite from Knights of Malta is based on some manuscripts discovered in Oxford’s Bodleian Library that contain music by the ancient Maltese knights. This is dignified music (especially the central movement of the five, Air de Branle), music that at times is distinctly courtly. The Bournemouth orchestra, which has been making such excellent records for Naxos under Marin Alsop recently, clearly has a ball.
The Fourth Concertino, subtitled “Summer Nights in Malta”, is scored for two pianos and orchestra in this 1988 revision of a piece originally conceived in 1960-62, when Camilleri was a presenter for CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) in Toronto. The light-of-touch first movement is a joy, and is also the shortest of the three. The central Andante is taken from the earlier solo piano work (also called Summer Nights in Malta ). It breathes stillness and repose, The recording, produced by Antony Hodgson and engineered by Geoffrey Addis, captures the sultry but restrained warmth of the strings to perfection.
The oboist and clarinettist who grace “The Folk Singer from Birguma”, the first of the Four Legends , surely deserve a mention. This is a luxurious movement that contrasts with the busier “Watchmaker from Gozo” ( a joy from first to last). “The Bride of Mosta” meditated on the tale of a bride who was snatched away by pirates on her wedding day, before a “Grand Polka March” closes the suite in infectious spirits.
The disc is well programmed. Overture Classique of 1961 initially acts as a still point after the Legends , before spicier harmonies are introduced into the faster main section.
The concept of an opera in Maltese is a tantalizing one. Il-Weghda (“The Promise”) is one such (how many are there, I wonder?) and was first produced in 1984. The present Intermezzo is all I have hears of this opera, but it must be said that this excerpt is absolutely beautiful. Clearly the Bournemouth players agree, for there’s a real sheen to the violins, and woodwind solos are delivered with genuine care.
The final work dates way back to 1946, when the 15-year-old composer was on holiday on the island of Gozo. The Malta Suite is a remarkable work from someone so young and, if the scoring is not as sophisticated as it was to become, there is a freshness here that is most appealing. The main theme of the Waltz points to a composer who has an inbuilt talent for melody (it is absolutely captivating, the sort of tune one would hear wafting from an English bandstand in a park on a summer afternoon). The fragility of the “Nocturne” leads to a dancing, extrovert final “village Festa”. This is thoroughly enjoyable music, undemanding yet often exquisitely crafted.
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