The Mdina Cathedral Archives own a rich collection of music of which numerous important compositions have been performed and recorded. This project was made possible through the pioneering work of Mgr John Azzopardi, Director of the Mdina Cathedral Archives who, together with professional assistants, organised and inventoried all the music collections which add up to nearly 6000 musical works. The majority of these consist of rare printed music and original scores, supplemented by instrumental and vocal parts, dating from the mid-sixteenth century to the twenty-first century.
The initiative to record substantial parts of this musical patrimony initiated in the mid-1990s to promote the richness of our repertoire, which was still hidden to the international fora.
Three CDs entitled Les Manuscrits de Malte (The Malta Manuscripts) were recorded and published by Studio SM of Paris. Launched in 1995 the first CD featured the choir of New College Oxford under the direction of Edward Higginbottom, performing a selection of motets by various renowned Italian composers, among them Giacomo Carissimi (1605-74), Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), Vincenzo Amato (1629-70) and Andrea Rinaldi (fl. 1627-44). This CD also features the motet ‘Venite Omnes’ by Maltese composer and maestro di cappella of the Cathedral Church, Domenico Balzano (1632-1707). Other CDs were produced locally by the Fondazzjoni Memorji Kulturali, featuring music by Maltese composers from different eras.
The two leading eighteenth-century Maltese composers who have served as maestro di cappella of the Cathedral of Malta were Benigno Zerafa (1726-1804) and Francesco Azopardi (1748-1809). They both composed a significant number of sacred works while in the service of the Cathedral, ranging from large scale compositions a due cori to church sinfonie. Their music can be appreciated in the following two excerpts, which were performed and recorded during concerts given in Malta in recent years.
The Archive has collaborated regularly with various ensembles, orchestras, choirs and directors. In this respect numerous concerts have been performed in Malta and abroad. During Lent of 2015, the German Vokalensemble Lankwitz performed chants from a twelfth-century manuscript written in Aquitanian notation, perhaps the most important codex and certainly the earliest one conserved at the Cathedral Archives, originating in Southern France.
During Advent of the same year The Rose Ensemble, directed by Jordan Sramek, performed four Christmas Concerts in Minnesota promoting seventeenth-century scores kept at the Cathedral Archives. Dr Sramek himself visited Malta to consult the musical works. The name of the event – Christmas in Baroque Malta – provided an inextricable link with Malta and its sacred musical treasures. A video sample of the event is available here.
Another concert of baroque music was held in Rome and Malta in 2016 by La Cantoria Campitelli directed by Vincenzo Di Betta. The concert featured the performance of a unique existing printed work, the Messa de Morti Concertata of 1653, by the north-Italian composer Bonaventura Rubino (c.1600-68). This was subsequently issued as a CD by Tactus and sold in musical outlets internationally.
Following is a selection of published CDs containing musical works from the Cathedral Archives (names of composers within brackets).
Compact disks with scores revived from the Cathedral Archives:
1991 – Vespro Solenne dedicato alla BVM di diversi musici Napoletani (1632): (G. M. Sabino, F. Sabino)
- DISQUES FESTIVAL D’AUVERS-SUR-OISE 1993
Savoir Pontoise: Francesco Azopardi
- ANTHOLOGY OF MALTESE MUSIC
Vol. 1: Francesco Azopardi, Pietro Paolo Bugeja, Carmelo Pace, Antonio Nani, Benigno Zerafa).
Compiled by Mro Charles Camilleri, sponsored by Enemalta 1995 (reissued 2003)
- SILVER LANDSCAPES
1997 – The Flute Music of Carmelo Pace (1906-1993).
Produced by Silvio Zammit and Ramona Pisani
1997- The Flute Music of Carmelo Pace (1906-1993)
2014 – Bonaventura Rubino: Messa de Morti a 5 concertata (1653).
Produced by La Cantoria Campitelli, Rome; Vincenzo di Betta, dir.)
STUDIO SM. PARIS International Children’s Choir, produced by Gerard Gefen:
- 1995 – Les Manuscrits de Malte, Vol. 1, The Choir of New College Oxford, and the London Bach Consort, directed by Edward Higginbottom
(Domenico Balzano, G. Carissimi, Cl. Monteverdi, V. Amato, A. Rinaldi, A. MAtaron, A. Campochiaro, G. Carissimi, A. La Greca, B. Rubino, Anon)
- 1997 – Les Manuscrits de Malte, Vol. 2: Tölzer Knabenchor directed by Wolfgang Schady.
(Benigno Zerafa, Francesco Azopardi, V. Tozzi, G. Carissimi)
- 1998 – Les Manuscrits de Malte, Vol. 3: Maîtrise des Bouches du Rhône, the Jeune Ensemble Baroque de Provence and the choir Jeannine Prosper, directed by Giuseppe Dellavalle.
APS BANK MALTA:
- 2003 – 19th-Century Sacred Music, Vol. 1
(Pietro Paolo Bugeja, Vincenzo Bugeja, Paolo Nani, Anton Nani)
- 2003 – Early-20th-Century Sacred Music, Vol. 1
(Giuseppe Caruana, Luigi Vella, Paul Nani)
- 2004 – Sacred Music of the 18th Century
(Girolamo Abos, Benigno Zerafa, Francesco Azopardi)
- 2004 – 19th-Century Sacred Music, Vol. 2
(Luigi Fenech, Giuseppe Vella, Anton Nani, Paolo Nani, Vincenzo Bugeja, Emanuele Galea)
- 2004- Later 20th century Sacred Music Vol. 2
- 2004- Late-20th-Century Sacred Music, Vol. 2 (Carmelo Pace)
- 2005- Francesco Azopardi (1748-1809), Messa de Morti a 4 voci 1792
- 2008- Pietro Paolo Bugeja (1772-1828): Messa Solenne
- 2009- Antonio Nani (1842-1929): Messa del Naufragio
- 2012- Tenebrae (P. P. Bugeja, A. Nani)
- 2017 – Antonio Nani (1842-1929): Messa Da Requiem (1879)
FONDAZZJONI MEMORJA KULTURALI NAZZJONALI, MALTA
Conducted by Mro Prof Joseph Vella and sponsored by Maltacom:
- 2001- Giuseppe Balzano (1616-1700)
- 2001- Middle Baroque Music (Domenico Balzano, Aloysio Mataron, Anon)
- 2002- The High Baroque (Pietro Gristi, Michelangelo Vella, Girolamo Abos)
- 2003 – Benigno Zerafa (1726-1804)
- 2004 –Prae Classica: Music from Malta(Salvatore Magrin, Michelangelo Vella, Pietro Paolo Pullicino, Emanuele Nani)
- 2006 – Francesco Azopardi (1748-1809)
- 2007 – Nicoló Isouard (1773-1818) and the Opéra Comique
- 2015 – Mro Giuseppe Camilleri 1903-1976 – Musical Compositions