The Malta Independent 4 December 2023, Monday
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A decade of harmonious delights: the 10th Maltese International Organ Festival extravaganza

Sunday, 12 November 2023, 08:00 Last update: about 24 days ago

An unforgettable music festival from 18 November to 9 December. Written by Denise Rejec

As we mark the 10th anniversary of the Malta International Organ Festival (MIOF), admirers of the fine arts and beautiful melodies can again anticipate an awe-inspiring journey. This popular festival, drawing performers and music lovers from various parts of the world, consistently delivers a multifaceted and enthralling musical agenda in idyllic settings across the Maltese archipelago, encompassing both Malta and Gozo.


Throughout the years, the festival has embraced both local and global maestros, introducing cherished classics and hidden jewels to its audiences. Noteworthy among these was the festival's dedication to commemorating Ludwig van Beethoven's 250th birth anniversary in 2020, featuring renditions of his timeless masterworks. In 2019, the festival paid homage to the illustrious Maltese composer Charles Camilleri by performing his Missa Mundi. The Organ Festival stood as the only event in Malta that dedicated its concerts to honouring the legacies of both Camilleri and Beethoven during their anniversaries.

The MIOF has also provided a platform for remarkable talents, such as the mesmerising rendition of Vivaldi's Gloria by the Ukraine-based Kiev Baroque Consort female choir, meticulously adhering to the original score under the baton of Nancy Romano, and Wayne Marshall's captivating improvisations on the organ, featuring Nosferatu's haunting melodies and Beethoven's most iconic themes in 2020.

Furthermore, Faure's Requiem, presented in the 1889 version for a small orchestra, expertly intertwined the grandeur of the organ's tones with the harmonious voices of the national choir, KorMalta, directed by Riccardo Bianchi. Other noteworthy performances from previous editions included the NDSF 5th Anniversary Concert, featuring possibly Malta's first performances of Rheinberger's Organ Concerto No. 2, Op. 177, and the 2018 renditions of Poulenc's Organ Concerto in G minor for Organ, Strings, and Timpani, followed by Telemann's Christmas Cantata Göttlichs Kind, lass mit Entzücken. In 2019, Bach's Cantata 'Ich Habe Genug' BWV 82 graced the festival.

A distinguishing feature of the MIOF is the stage it offers to the victors of the competition, enabling them to showcase their talents amid the festival's performances.

The 10th edition pledges to uphold the festival's rich legacy with a splendid lineup of ten concerts and a programme comprising seven educational events, set to captivate all the senses.

Kicking off the festival is the 'Opening Concert: Painting Bach', an interdisciplinary performance combining Bach's music with visual arts, featuring Svetlana Berezhnaya from Russia on the organ and Spanish visual artist Carlos Pardo Gomez. This inaugural concert will take place at Valletta's St Paul's Anglican Pro-Cathedral on November 18. Part of the organ at the St Paul's Pro-Cathedral is the instrument that, way back in time, served at the Cathedral of St Werburgh in Chester when the famous Baroque composer Handel stopped there in 1741 on his way to Dublin.

Experience an electrifying blend of organ and percussion on November 22 at the Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Paceville. This captivating performance will showcase the recently installed neo-baroque Walcker organ by Robert Buhagiar and feature the remarkable talents of the German father-son duo, Harald and Sebastian Gokus.

On November 24, relish the beauty of 'Viva Vivaldi,' a concert featuring concertos for or arranged for two flutes, strings, and continuo. You will have the opportunity to savour the musical talents of Italian flutists Luca Magni and Serena Caremani, accompanied by organist Salvatore Pronesti, under the baton of conductor Massimo Annibali, at the pretty Bir Miftuħ Chapel in Gudja. This chapel in Gudja, a stone's throw away from the Malta International Airport, is a historical gem that has witnessed the passage of time and the evolution of the local community. The chapel's origins can be traced back to the 15th century, making it not only a place of musical enchantment but also a living testament to Malta's rich heritage.

Music aficionados can look forward to a delightful blend of sounds from Jernej Mazej (Slovenia) on the organ and Monica Kammerlander (Austria) on the violin, who will render compositions by Mozart, Rheinberger, Tchaikovsky, Paganini & others at St Theresa Church in Cospicua on November 26.

The event titled 'The Spanish Composers' on November 28 offers music enthusiasts an opportunity to revel in the enchanting repertoire of Spanish maestros, all skilfully brought to life on the 1769 Neapolitan organ by Augusto Belau at Ħal Għaxaq Parish.

December 2 will present 'Sacred Arias,' a vocal soirée delivered by singers from Italian Opera Florence accompanied by Davide Boldrini on the organ at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Pompei, which is Marsaxlokk's Parish Church. Head to St John the Baptist Parish Church, popularly known as the Rotunda, in Xewkija, on the island of Gozo, on December 3 for a sublime solo organ concert by Austrian musician Bernhard Gferer. He will interpret works by Mozart, Lemmens, Guilmant, Gigout, Boëllmann and others. Then follows a striking organ and brass performance at St Sebastian Chapel in Qormi on December 5, which will showcase a talented all-Maltese ensemble of musicians, including Franco Cefai on organ, Joseph Chircop on trumpet, Isaac Cassar on French horn, and George Camilleri on trombone. This concert is supported by the Kunsill Reġjun Nofsinhar as part of the Southern Region of Culture programme. It is noteworthy that the concerts held in Gudja, Ħal Għaxaq, Marsaxlokk, and Qormi all form part of this programme.

On December 8, don't overlook 'The Rising Stars Lunchtime Concert' at Mosta's St Mary's Sanctuary & Basilica, showcasing rising talents accompanied by Natalia Rakhmatulina. The festival concludes on December 9 with a closing concert titled 'A Prelude to Christmas' at Valletta's St Augustine Parish, featuring music for the festive season. Italian soprano Silvia Di Falco and Brendon Ball, a distinguished trumpet player from the UK and a member of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, will be part of this jubilant ensemble, together with the festival's artistic director and baritone Joseph Lia, who all will be accompanied on the organ by Andreas Meisner from Germany.

In the days leading up to the final concert, the festival will provide an array of immersive educational encounters, including marimba and violin masterclasses in collaboration with the Malta School of Music in Ħamrun, and a flute masterclass at the Nicolo Isouard Band Club in Mosta. Moreover, additional masterclasses on the organ by Jernej Mazej and Bernhard Gferer will take place on the Mascioni organ of St Augustine Church in Valletta. Informative lectures and workshops will be conducted at Xewkija's Rotunda in Gozo by Franco Cefai and the Russian Cultural Centre in Valletta by Dr Hugo Agius Muscat and Celine Portelli, providing a comprehensive and immersive musical odyssey and educational agenda for all participants.

Beyond the enchanting melodies and harmonies, the Maltese International Organ Festival serves as a cultural tribute to the nation's heritage, as it unfolds in some of Malta's and Gozo's most stunning chapels, churches, basilicas, and cathedrals. These unique settings enable festivalgoers to appreciate the concealed treasures of Malta through the universal language of music.

The festival's artistic director, Dr Joseph Lia, who studied at the renowned Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatoire in St Petersburg, and, in my opinion, possesses one of the most beautiful baritone voices I have heard in Malta, brings a unique dimension to the festival through his deep passion for music and extensive experience in the cultural and creative sector. 

The 10th Maltese International Organ Festival promises to be an unparalleled musical odyssey. From November 18 to December 9, lose yourself in the captivating sounds of classical music while enjoying Malta's and Gozo's historic venues.


For a comprehensive programme and ticket details, visit Tickets for the opening and closing concerts are available via

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