The Malta Independent 14 December 2017, Thursday

Watch: MPO Executive Chairman Sigmund Mifsud defends board’s actions in Brian Schembri saga

Kevin Schembri Orland Friday, 22 September 2017, 12:43 Last update: about 4 months ago

The Executive Chairman of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) Sigmund Mifsud defended the Board's decision regarding Brian Schembri, stating that a good package was offered .

In an article published earlier today, former artistic director and principal conductor of the Malta Philharmonic Opera Brian Schembri told The Malta Independent that his contract had occasionally been broken. Recently, Schembri announced on Facebook that his contract was terminated last August, adding that the decision was unfair and abusive. The termination of his contract has prompted many of Malta's prominent talents to speak out in his favour,

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Mifsud said that that from the MPO side, it was this board who originally, after 25 years of schembri not being with the orchestra, "wanted Schembri as we believed in his talent. "

"If we truly wanted to stop him from being in his position, we could have stopped, by law, prior to the end of the three year contract. Our intention was to continue working with Schembri and improve our collaboration wherby the orchestra would benefit more from the collaboration. There wasn't agreement on many things and there were many internal issues where there was disagreement, which reached a peak when schembri did not attend one of the concerts in his contract. Aside from artistic director, he was the principle conductor and had to do five concerts a year."

He said that Schembri had not turn up to one concert and said that the MPOs lawyer sent letters stating that not turning up would be a breach of contract. He said that another conductor had to be used that day.

He said that the board still believed in his talent, and "there were discussions which we took seriously to try and find a solution and turn onto a new page with Schembri, We still offered a good packet and the same title. But he did not accept the offer. As such we did not feel we had any other choice but to close this chapter.".

He said that there are a number of conductors who work with the orchestra, and there wasn't just Schembri.

Asked why Schembri's contract conditions were changed a number of times, Mifsud said that "during discussions there are always different ideas, where one party gives one thing and the other party tries to take another. This always happens The intention was to come to an agreement which made sense both for him and the orchestra."

Culture Minister Owen Bonnici, who was present, said that it was this administration who approached schembri and gave him the role with the orchestra. So if there is an administration that believes in his talents, it is this administration. "Things didn't work and all else is in the public domain. I don't want to speculate further as Mifsud gave a good an honest depiction of what happened."

"Schembri mentioned seeking legal advice so need to thread carefully on what will say."

He said that the Orchestra will keep going from strength to strength.  "I am confident it will develop further and achieve one aim after another. "

"As to who will replace Schembri, there are various options.  The idea of a principal conductor is not the only way forward. We could have number of conductors both local and foreign who conduct number of concerts per year.  A mix of local and foreign talent would strike the nicest balance for the orchestra to keep moving forward.  I admire the musicians for their sacrifices to reach the goals they are reaching and sure pub will enjoy orchestra as much as before."

Today marked the launch of the MPO's winter programme. 

Sigmund Mifsud said that the MPO has over 60 concerts coming up, some of which are still in the discussion phase.

He said that there is a lot of investment in the youth orchestra to help not only offer them a platform, but to develop their talents as they will be the MPO musicians of tomorrow.

He spoke of an internship programme where six youth orchestra musicians, who will join the MPO  rehearsals and play in some concerts to get hands on experience.

Minister Owen Bonnici said that there is much more to the orchestra than the actual orchestra. It is not only an ensemble of good musicians, but is more, he said, mentioning cultural diplomacy.

Last year, he said, the orchestra played in the opening of the Maltese presidency, and played at the Vatican, in Vienna and in other countries, "always leaving with standing ovations."

"Through the orchestra, we are speaking with the rest of the world, as regards what we have achieved. We have been including more compositions by Maltese composers."

Another facet of the orchestra is to provide an opportunity to youths to see a career in music.

Bonnici also said that there are musicians who use the orchestra for music etc. "I have no doubt it will make the country proud in the coming schedule."

He mentioned a tour including Germany and Vienna in the schedule.


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