Musical Archives | Mdina Cathedral Museum Archives

Musical Archives

Faithful to the old Latin maxim qui cantat bis orat (the person who sings is praying twice) the Mdina Cathedral endeavoured to enrich its liturgical celebrations with music of the highest quality. At first the Cathedral Chapter imported qualified directors from Sicily, but later sponsored promising Maltese candidates to study in the conservatories of Sicily and Naples, and to employ them to direct the cappella musicale of the Cathedral, performing their own compositions. In this way a musical archive of the highest quality was built up and conserved in the Church’s lower sacristy. This collection which survived the earthquake of 1693 contains many unique printed and manuscript scores as well as the scores of the earliest known Maltese composers.

As from January 1968 the musical archives were opened for public research in the newly restored palace of the Old Seminary in Mdina, with a small selection of scores displayed in a showcase. This gesture was so much appreciated that a number of persons who had family ownership of collections of musical archives in their families were all too happy to donate them to the Cathedral archives, convinced that these would in future be properly conserved and studied. This was the case of one living composer and music director, Mro Paul Nani, as well as the relatives

of various deceased composers and directors who had inherited their collections. These collections included not only the works composed by their ancestors, but also works by other composers which they or their ancestors had also collected. Some collections included works by a large number of local or foreign composers.

In their present state the musical archives of the Mdina Cathedral include 27 different collections, with a general hand-list of each single score furnishing details of the composer, title, date of composition and other relevant information. This hand-list covers no less than 5251 entries. There are also additional hand-lists as well as detailed index cards of each score.

Enlisted hereunder are the various sections of the archives, showing how the music collection of the Cathedral Chapter’s archives was gradually set up and enriched, especially during the last 50 years. Also given are basic details of each donation. These basic details do not include the names of the composers referred to in that particular donation as the list may contain too many names. Moreover the works of some important composers are included with works in various donations.

Recovered from the Cathedral sacristies is a collection of manuscript choral books for liturgical use with music notations. The earliest two are written in a medieval Aquitanian notation. These are the earliest music manuscripts known to exist in Malta.
2PRINTED WORKS BY ITALIAN COMPOSERS, 1568-1798A collection of 159 rare works printed in Italy with one in France, containing both religious and 20 secular works. Several of these works are unique. Two publications fully document this collection.
3MS SCORES BY ITALIAN COMPOSERS, 17TH TO 18TH CENT.119 works, also recovered from the church sacristies, with many unique scores by important Sicilian and italian composers.
4UNATTRIBUTED MS SCORES, 17TH-18TH CENT.142 works mostly written by the same person. These are copies of important old works, whose copyist did not record the name of the composer.
5THE EXTANT WORKS OF THE EARLIEST KNOWN MALTESE COMPOSERS, 1616-1707142 works mostly written by the same person. These are copies of important old works, whose copyist did not record the name of the composer.
6THE DON BENIGNO ZERAFA SCORESA collection of 91 manuscript works of sacred music which Zerafa - maestro di cappella of the Cathedral for many years - composed, mostly performed and finally donated to the church.
7THE FRANCESCO AZOPARDI SCORESA collection of 250 works composed by Francesco Azzopardi, a famous successor of Benigno Zerafa. The Church purchased these scores from the composer’s sister soon after his death.
8A CORPUS OF SCORES BY VARIOUS MALTESE COMPOSERSAbout 50 scores by various Maltese composers were conserved as a group in the Cathedral sacristies. With the transfer of the old archives to the building of the Old Seminary in 1969, this group was retained as a separate collection.
9THE NANI COLLECTIONMro Paul Nani - the last of a whole generation of composers and music directors in various churches and theatres - was the first to donate his very rich collection to the Cathedral Archives. The scores were brought over in three separate installments and the whole process took a number of years to be completed. With the scores of his ancestors Emanuele, Vincenzo, Agostino, Dr Paolo, Antonio and his own scores, he added several works by other composers. In 1984 the donation was finalised by a public deed in acts of notary Anthony Attard. A full catalogue of the Nani composers has been published by Franco Bruni and others in 2007 and was recently made available online.
10THE AURELIO CAMILLERI COLLECTIONA corpus of 29 scores by various Maltese composers was recovered from the basement of the house of Aurelio Camilleri of Rabat and donated to the Cathedral Archives. Camilleri was a relative of Mro Francesco Azzopardi.
11THE LUIGI VELLA COLLECTIONAbout 80 scores by Luigi Vella and other composers, together with a number of files with press cutting and information on musical activity in Vella’s times, were donated by Mrs Edwige Camilleri, a relative of Vella.
12THE ALBERTO VELLA COLLECTIONMr Anthony Vella, son of Alberto, donated a large collection of scores by the Vella Composers, Dr Giuseppe, Alberto, Paul and Luigi.
13THE MRO FRANCESCO SAMMUT COLLECTIONA small collection of scores by various Maltese composers was donated by the director of music in various churches on secondary feast days.
14THE CARUANA COLLECTION Miss Bice Caruana daughter of the well known composer Mro Giuseppe donated all the scores of her father and her two brothers Fr Anton SJ and Salvino. The hymns of Giuseppe Caruana are still very popular and some of them have earned international recognition.
15THE CARMELO PACE COLLECTIONThis extensive collection was generously donated by the composer himself during his lifetime, with a duplicate in photocopy to assist researchers and with a detailed published catalogue of all his works.
16THE GIUSEPPE DOUBLET COLLECTION363 scores by various composers of the Cottonera area were donated by J. B. Cassar of Rabat.
17THE DON PIETRO PAOLO GALEA COLLECTIONThe De la Salle Brothers donated the scores composed by their confrere Pietro Paolo Galea, intending to attract a researcher who would study and evaluate the collection.
18THE GIUSEPPE MAGRI COLLECTION53 scores including three operas were donated by the composer’s daughter in 1988.
19THE CARLO FIAMINGO COLLECTIONA small collection of 19 scores by Giorgio and Carlo Fiamingo and other composers.
20THE SALVATORE SCICLUNA COLLECTION302 scores donated in 1989 by the composer’s son Oreste. They were all composed by Salvatore Scicluna, with only three by Calcedonio Scicluna.
21THE CAMILLERI COLLECTIONA large collection of works by various composers of the Camilleri family and other composers. The collection was received in two installments.
22THE ABELA SCOLARO COLLECTION 181 scores by Joseph Abela Scolaro and other composers were donated in 1990 by the family. These include a considerable amount of band music.
23THE GALEA MISURA COLLECTION Mostly coming from the Mallia Cassar Collection, this extensive collection was donated in two parts by the Galea family of Valletta.
24THE FR DANIEL SAMMUT COLLECTIONThis prolific Carmelite composer donated copies of his own scores during his lifetime.
25A GROUP OF SMALLER DONATIONSA number of small donations by various collectors have been grouped together so as to form a separate unit.
26THE MELLIEĦA PARISH COLLECTION316 scores by various composers, mainly by but mostly by Luigi Grech Grandolini have been given to the Cathedral and so far conserved and so far kept apart as a separate collection.
27THE ANTON AZZOPARDI COLLECTIONAnton Azzopardi of Lija was a minor composer of sacred music. His family donated all his scores, which are currently conserved in 25 folders.
28A VAST COLLECTION OF PRINTED SCORES BY MOSTLY FOREIGN COMPOSERSThese have been listed and conserved in 56 packs, the last eleven of which are works by Maltese composers.