Music Archives & Recordings – Mdina Cathedral Museum Archives

Music Archives & Recordings

The Mdina Cathedral from very early times, employed able and very competent Maestri di Cappella and these were brought over from Sicily. In 1516 the bishop of Malta Baldassare Cagliares, the only Maltese Bishop during the time of the Knights of Malta, instituted a Cappella Musicale in the cathedral.

Through this institution, the church assisted promising Maltese students to study in Sicily and later in Naples so that they would be in a position to return back to Malta to conduct the Cappella Musicale, which employed a number of people to compose, play and execute music required by the Cathedral.

They were encouraged to compose and conduct their own works. The Cathedral also bought printed scores thus creating its musical archives. The Maltese Maestri di Cappella were encouraged to donate their compositions to the Cathedral in return for the being assisted moneywise to study abroad.

With the passing of time, new trends in liturgical musical requirements ensued. The old musical archives of the Cathedral were forgotten. These old archives were rediscovered in 1968 by Mgr Gwann Azzopardi who was entrusted with rediscovering all these priceless collection. This musical collection was immediately moved to the old archives in the Seminary building where today one finds the Cathedral Museum. Whilst moving the old musical archives, these were cleaned and reclassified.

The Mdina Cathedral from very early times, employed able and very competent Maestri di Cappella and these were brought over from Sicily. In 1516 the bishop of Malta Baldassare Cagliares, the only Maltese Bishop during the time of the Knights of Malta, instituted a Cappella Musicale in the cathedral.

Through this institution, the church assisted promising Maltese students to study in Sicily and later in Naples so that they would be in a position to return back to Malta to conduct the Cappella Musicale, which employed a number of people to compose, play and execute music required by the Cathedral.

They were encouraged to compose and conduct their own works. The Cathedral also bought printed scores thus creating its musical archives. The Maltese Maestri di Cappella were encouraged to donate their compositions to the Cathedral in return for the being assisted moneywise to study abroad.

With the passing of time, new trends in liturgical musical requirements ensued. The old musical archives of the Cathedral were forgotten. These old archives were rediscovered in 1968 by Mgr Gwann Azzopardi who was entrusted with rediscovering all these priceless collection. This musical collection was immediately moved to the old archives in the Seminary building where today one finds the Cathedral Museum. Whilst moving the old musical archives, these were cleaned and reclassified.

When this exercise was completed the Cathedral rediscovered the oldest Maltese composers and great works by two important Maltese composers of the 18th Century – Zerafa and Azzopardi. Following the rediscovery of this unique musical archives, some of the very old music was translated and played in concerts, recitals and publications both locally but even around the world. This in turn led to huge donations by the Maltese public of privately held musical compositions. Thousands of scores were thus donated to the Cathedral Archives. One of the biggest such collection was the Nani Collection with works by five generations of composers in the Nani family.

Bishop Cagliares, born in Valletta in 1575, loved art and lived in a period where the church and state were competing to carry out the best works of art. He was also the only Maltese Bishop chosen to lead the Maltese diocese when Malta was under the rule of the Order of St John between 1530 and 1798.