Why is the music of Maltese composer Charles Camilleri (b1931) not better known? This collection is one of the most rewarding compilations of new 20th century orchestral music I have encountered in a long time. True, it is lightweight, but it is consistently attractive and often hauntingly tuneful, and how much contemporary music can one say that about? Moreover, it is resourcefully inventive, elegantly crafted and richly scored, with many delightful woodwind solos: the flute solo which opens the Intermezzo from the opera Il-Weghda, with the melody later taken up by the clarinet, is ravishing, while Camilleri’s expressive writing for the strings is gently touching.
The lovely Nocturne from the Malta Suite; the sad little portrait of “The Bride of Mosta” – snatched away by pirates on her wedding day – the third of the Legends – and the tender central Andante of Summer Nights in Malta, delectably played by Jennifer Micallef and Glen Inanga, are all memorable, while the Concertino’s outer movements have wit and high spirits in abundance. So has the infectious “Grand Polk March”, the fourth Legend, with its chortling clarinet roulades exhilaratingly played by Godfrey Mifsud. Much of this music is descriptive. Legend no. 2 brings a pizzicato picture of “The Watch-maker from Gozo” and has him winding his watch at the very end. The Knights of Malta ballet suite uses genuine ancient airs and dances, taken from old local manuscripts, piquantly scored, and the Malta Suite (the composer’s first success, written when he was only 15) draws on local folk music.
These sparkling performances from Brian Schembri and the excellent Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra could not be more stylish or persuasively spontaneous, and the vividly atmospheric recording is first rate. Not to be missed – Camilleri’s muse possesses an unselfconscious ability to communicate and captivate the listener in the simplest way.