This May sees the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) visit Munich to perform at the city's world-famous Gastieg, a renowned arts centre which first opened its doors to the public in 1985. Performing alongside the noted American violinist, Stella Chen, and conducted by its Chief Conductor, Sergey Smbatyan, this upcoming performance marks a welcome return to the orchestra's concert activities after a year that has seen its activities curtailed by the effects of the coronavirus. This outing follows a previous performance at the Gastieg by the MPO in 2018, and is organised by the European Foundation for Support of Culture (EUFSC) led by its President, Konstantin Ishkhanov. The concert will feature works by Mendelssohn, Prokofiev and Alexey Shor.
This last year has proven highly challenging to the work of cultural organisations such as the MPO owing to the global impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, with concert halls and other performance spaces across the globe falling silent in the wake of lockdowns and other restrictive measures enacted to fight the spread of the coronavirus. This upcoming performance of the MPO as such marks a significant milestone in the orchestra's performance activities, and signals the ensemble's resurgence as an internationally active orchestra and one that is able to adapt quickly to an ever-changing cultural landscape. As Malta's only public-funded orchestra and primary cultural ambassador, the MPO has established itself in recent years as an agile and innovative ensemble, and one that stands ready to reassert itself as an increasingly relevant and engaging emerging European orchestra. Throughout the last several years, the MPO has worked with major international soloists including Maxim Vengerov, Andreas Ottensamer and Joseph Calleja, a trend it continues with this tour as it invites the young virtuoso Stella Chen, to perform famous Violin Concertos by Mendelssohn and Alexey Shor.
The MPO's upcoming appearance at the Gastieg marks its second visit to Munich's premier arts centre, following a highly successful performance in 2018 which saw the Maltese orchestra joined by the world-renowned violist David Aaron Carpenter, and Deutsche Grammophon artist, Austrian pianist Ingolf Wunder. The Gastieg is noted for its unique architectural design, and has throughout its distinguished history provided the setting for many successful concerts featuring world-class orchestras, soloists and conductors. It is also the home of the renowned Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.
Commenting on the MPO's upcoming performance, the MPO's Executive Chairman, Sigmund Mifsud, said: "Being an orchestra from a small island, we are always interested in the opportunity to perform overseas, especially in such a prestigious venue".
The concert on the 19th of May sees the MPO joined by virtuoso American violinist Stella Chen, a critically-acclaimed emerging artist who has already achieved considerable success both at home in the USA and internationally. Following her win at the 2019 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, she has since been the recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant and Lincoln Centre Emerging Artist Award in 2020, in addition to receiving the Robert Levin Award from Harvard University where she studied as part of the Harvard/New England Conservatory Dual Degree Program. She is also the youngest ever prize winner of the esteemed Menuhin Competition.
Conducting the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra for this performance will be the group's Principal Conductor, Sergey Smbatyan. Mr Smbatyan first debuted with the orchestra in 2017, before later joining the MPO in his current capacity in 2019. He conducted the MPO for their first visit to Munich in 2018, making this second visit a welcome return for the highly in-demand Armenian conductor who studied with Sir Colin Davis at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Mr Smbatyan is also the Founder and Artistic Director of the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra, an ensemble which under his leadership has seen its national and international standing grow significantly since its formation in 2005.
The repertoire featured in May represents a diverse range of compositions, including works from both classic and modern composers. The MPO will be joined onstage by Stella Chen for a performance of Mendelssohn's famous Violin Concerto, followed by contemporary composer Alexey Shor's expressive Violin Concerto. The programme will conclude with Prokofiev's Symphony No 1 in D Major, the Classical.
The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra's upcoming visit to Munich is organised by the European Foundation for Support of Culture (EUFSC), a Malta-based organisation which seeks to promote and support cultural endeavours around the world, focussing primarily on classical music. In pursuance of this aim, each year the Foundation engages in a series of concerts, festivals, masterclasses and lectures across Europe, North and South America, the Middle East and Asia, frequently collaborating with an impressive roster of internationally-renowned soloists, orchestras and pedagogues. The MPO and EUFSC have a long-established partnership, having previously worked together on a series of projects most notably including the InClassica Malta International Music Festival, which this year will celebrate its tenth-year anniversary in the Maltese capital Valletta. Commenting on the MPO's collaboration with the EUFSC, and in particular noting the Foundation's support of the group's international performing activities, the orchestra's Executive Chairman, Sigmund Mifsud, said: "...I really must thank the President of the Foundation, Mr Konstantin Ishkhanov, who believes so much in our orchestra and in our country, and I believe he has been doing a fantastic job of helping the local culture to develop."
Speaking of his pride at the MPO's upcoming performance in Munich, the EUFSC's President, Konstantin Ishkhanov, said: "After such a difficult period of time for cultural institutions around the world, on behalf of everyone at the EUFSC I would like to say how thrilled we are to be supporting such a prestigious concert. The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra represents some of Malta's best and brightest musicians, and, in partnership with the renowned soloist Stella Chen and maestro Sergey Smbatyan, will, I'm sure, deliver a phenomenal concert in Munich that will further solidify the MPO's reputation as an important emerging European orchestra. I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra on such an exciting project, and I look forward to many further collaborations in the future."
The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra will perform at Munich's Gastieg on the 19th of May as part of a tour of Germany and Austria taking place 16th - 21st May. For more details, see the orchestra's official website.
Photo of Konstantin Ishkhanov, EUFS President