Sergey Smbatyan

Extending beyond his native Armenia, Sergey Smbatyan’s renowned and prolific musical career is anchored on his inexorable vision to perfect the world through music and human spiritual enrichment. He is the founder, Artistic Director, and Principal Conductor of the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra and has been leading the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra as its Principal Conductor since September 2019.


Among Smbatyan’s most cherished legacies are his self-founded four music festivals (Armenian Composing Art Festival, Khachaturian International Festival, “Armenia” International Music Festival, and “Contemporary Classics” Composers’ Festival). Other enterprises include five exclusive orchestras formed for significant events, seven special music projects and concert series, and seven educational projects, the most impactful of the latter being “DasA” (literally “ClassA”) aiming at the positive transformation in the young generation’s attitude towards classical music.


Smbatyan’s relentless pursuit of new dimensions for innovative artistry underlies his many bold initiatives. At the largest IT Congress for Innovators and Entrepreneurs hosted by Armenia in 2019, “WCIT 2019,” an orchestra of 100 musicians from 15 countries played the first ever AI real-time-composed music at the opening ceremony of the event as a token of the dialogue between traditional classical music and cutting-edge technology. photo: Lusi Sargsyan


Malta Philharmonic Orchestra

For half a century, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra has been Malta’s leading musical ensemble. The orchestra was founded in April 1968, when musicians from the defunct “Commander-in-Chief” (C-in-C) orchestra of the Malta-based British Mediterranean Fleet regrouped as the Manoel Theatre Orchestra. It continued to serve as the theater’s resident orchestra until September 1997, when it became an independent orchestra, taking up the name National Orchestra of Malta. The orchestra became the MPO in 2008 when it expanded into a full-size symphony orchestra, bringing together the best of Maltese talent and musicians from Europe and beyond.


Joseph Sammut, the C-in-C’s last conductor, was the orchestra’s first conductor, remaining at the helm until 1992. Since then, the orchestra has also been under the direction of Joseph Vella, John Galea, Michael Laus, and Brian Schembri.


In 2019, the MPO has appointed Sergey Smbatyan as Principal Conductor and Michael Laus as Resident Conductor. The MPO also works with local and international guest conductors and soloists including Lawrence Renes, Michalis Economou, Guy Braunstein, Alexei Volodin, Camilla Tilling, Joseph Calleja, and Enrico Dindo. As Malta’s only professional orchestra, the MPO averages more than one performance a week including symphonic concerts, opera productions in Malta and Gozo, community outreach and educational initiatives, as well as various concerts of a lighter nature.


The orchestra has performed in leading venues across the globe, including in the United States, Russia, Germany, Austria, China, Italy, and Belgium, and presently embarks on at least one international tour each concert season. The MPO is a keen exponent of Maltese composers, regularly performing their works in Malta and overseas, as well as frequently premiering and commissioning new compositions.


Through the MPO Academy and the Malta Youth Orchestra, which regularly give concerts across Malta, the MPO is also responsible for the training and professional development of the next generation of Maltese musicians.


photo: Joe Smith


Euchar Gravina

Euchar Gravina (b. 1994) is a composer from Malta based in London. His output ranges from pieces for soloists and chamber ensembles to electronic music, choral works and orchestral compositions.


Recent commissions and projects include a set of three orchestral pieces with electronics for the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, a chamber orchestra work for Aldeburgh Festival, a touring opera for children for Teatru Malta (in collaboration with Three Palaces Festival), an interactive dance-theatre piece for Valletta 2018 (European Capital City of Culture) and a concerto for Teatru Manoel and the Valletta International Baroque Festival. Performances of his music have also been given by Christ Church Cathedral Choir (Oxford), Psappha Ensemble, Chroma and mezzo-soprano Marvic Monreal. Upcoming projects include a work for violin and orchestra, a piece for the Carducci String Quartet as well as a piano-percussion duo for George Barton and Siwan Rhys.


The recipient of the special jury prize at the APS National Composition Competition (2015) with Stabat Mater, Euchar was the composer-in-residence with the young ensembles at Sage Gateshead (2017/18). He is currently a Britten Pears Young Artist (2019/20), ahead of performances at Aldeburgh Festival 2020/1, and has also been awarded a place on the Peter Reynolds Composition Studio 2020/1, as part of the Vale of Glamorgan Festival. His choral work ‘Soneto XIII’, in memory of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, has received multiple performances in the UK and his score to the documentary ‘Children of the Underground’ has travelled between museums in Malta and the Netherlands.


Euchar is the Artistic Director at Waterloo Festival, an annual festival in the heart of London which brings together artists, musicians and the local neighbourhood, and has been recently appointed Artistic Director at St John's Waterloo ahead of a redevelopment project which will transform the venue into a more accessible and inclusive hub for arts and the community.


Following studies in piano and organ, Euchar read composition at the Royal Academy of Music (London) with Simon Bainbridge and Edmund Finnis and participated in masterclasses and lessons with Oliver Knussen, Bent Sørensen, Magnus Lindberg and Judith Weir, amongst others. At the Academy, Euchar also took classes in choral conducting with Patrick Russill. When not composing, Euchar directs community choirs in Waterloo and Southwark and teaches piano. He also sings tenor with the London Symphony Chorus. Euchar has been generously supported by the Janatha Stubbs Foundation, the BOV Joseph Calleja Foundation and is a recipient of Arts Scholarship, financed by the Government of Malta. For more information, visit:

photo: William Marsey

Mariella Cassar-Cordina

Mariella Cassar-Cordina is a composer of acoustic and electroacoustic music and educator. She holds a Bachelor Degree in Music Education and a Post Graduate Diploma in Administration and Management from the University of Malta. In 2005 she was awarded the M. Phil (Music) from the Mediterranean Institute at the University of Malta. Having been a regular student of Maltese composer Charles Camilleri, she decided to further her studies at Plymouth University, in conjunction with Falmouth University, UK, where she obtained a doctorate degree in Music composition under the tutorship of Christopher Best, Trevor Wiggins and David Prior.


Besides being a violinist, she also plays the violoncello. Her works vary from solo, chamber to full-orchestral works. She collaborates regularly with various Maltese and foreign artists, musicians of the Fisarchi ensemble (Florence), viola player Martha Mooke (US), composer Joel Thome in partnership with Orchestra of Our Time Inc. (US), and visual artist Victor Agius. Her works have been performed in Malta, Manchester, Bristol, Florence, Montepulciano, Austria, Prague, and NYC, one of her pieces being recorded live by Dunelm Records.


Cassar-Cordina has been member of jury in a number of international singing festivals, including the Malta International Choir Festival in 2011. Dr Mariella Cassar-Cordina is also the Education Officer for Music in Malta, lecturer at the School of Performing Arts and Faculty of Education at the University of Malta, Director of Projects (Orchestra of our Time), founder of the Malta Association of Music Educators (MAME) and co-founder of Ars Vitae ensemble.

photo: Josette Pace

Christopher Muscat

Recipient of first prizes in the Joyce Dixey Competition (UK) in 2000, the Jaume Dotras Serrabella Polyphonic Composition Competition (Spain) in 2006 and the APS Bank Composition Competition (Malta) in 2012, Christopher Muscat has been described by the local press as "a young composer of outstanding talent" (The Sunday Times) and the "stark originality" (The Malta Independent) of his works has earned him an ever increasing reputation. His works have been performed in many important music centres in Italy, England, Spain, Finland, Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia, Poland, Russia, Belgium, Germany, Tunisia, China and the United States of America in such prestigious venues as the Philharmonie in Berlin, the Great Hall of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow and the Shanghai Oriental Arts Centre in China.


As conductor, his "clear conducting style" (It-Torċa), "high quality conducting" and "accomplished conducting technique" (The Sunday Times) have received constant public and critical praise. Since his professional conducting debut in 2000, Muscat has collaborated very closely with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra and the Malta Youth Orchestra and has also guest conducted other local and international orchestras and ensembles. Muscat is widely regarded as the leading authority on the great Maltese romantic composer Paolino Vassallo having been largely responsible for the composer’s revival in 2006. Moreover he has premiered numerous works by contemporary composers and also recorded for television as well as for the international label GegaNEW.


Over the years Muscat has worked and collaborated closely with various internationally-acclaimed artistes such as the Medici String Quartet, Quatuor CoryFeye, Leipzig Sinfonietta, Virtuosi di Praga, Matus Jakabcic (jazz guitar), David Campbell (clarinet), Giuseppe Nova (flute), Miriam Gauci (soprano), Gianluca Libertucci (organ), conductors Leos Svarovsky, Robert Sund and Ben Parry, composers Karl Jenkins, Marco Frisina and Vytautas Miskinis, the Choir of Clare College Cambridge, the National Youth Chamber Choir of Great Britain and the Coro Sinfonico di Milano Giuseppe Verdi.


Christopher Muscat is also very much active in the field of sacred music. Besides his role as Music Director of the Jubilate Deo Choir, Muscat has worked with various other choirs and has also conducted numerous special occasions at St John's Co-Cathedral and Mdina Metropolitan Cathedral in Malta as well as Westminster Cathedral in London and St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Through his pioneering work with the Cappella Gregoriana Jubilate Deo Muscat is at the forefront of a movement that aims to revive the art of plainchant singing in the Maltese islands.


As founding conductor of VOCALISE (a voluntary organisation aiming at providing training and opportunities for talented singers), Muscat has coached and conducted a number of productions, amongst these Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and Saint-Saëns' Christmas Oratorio, entirely made up of young Maltese singers. For many years he was also the chorus master for operas held at the Teatru Manoel (Malta's national theatre). In Janaury 2017 he has been appointed Music Director of Fondazzjoni Paulus, a foundation whose main interest is the promotion of sacred music.


Christopher Muscat holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in music studies from the University of Malta as well as a Master of Music degree (with distinction) from the University of Surrey where he studied with Sebastian Forbes (composition and choral conducting), Steve Goss (composition) and Nicholas Conran (orchestral conducting). For many years Muscat has taught music at the University of Malta and sacred music at the Archbishop's Seminary. Since 2011 he has occupied the posts of Artistic Director and Chairman of the Malta International Choir Festival, is a member of the World Choir Council and is regularly invited to judge international vocal, instrumental and composition competitions. In December 2018 Muscat was appointed Director of Music of the Archdiocese of Malta and Maestro di Cappella of the Metropolitan Cathedral.

photo: Joe Smith

Véronique Vella

In 2008, Véronique Vella became the first Maltese woman to be conferred a Ph.D. in Music Composition. After winning two Ian Tomlin Napier Music scholarships and receiving generous funding from The Janatha Stubbs Foundation, Véronique read Music at undergraduate and postgraduate level at Edinburgh Napier University. In 2003, she graduated with a First Class Honours in Music, with piano as her first study, before taking up Composition.


Vella’s music has been performed around Europe, Malaysia, Canada, Japan and US. In recent years, Véronique has collaborated with many dancers, including Lucia Piquero, Gil Kerer, Mavin Khoo, Moveo Dance Company and the Maltese national dance company, ŻfinMalta. Her works for dance include music for Francesca Tranter’s 50, 000 (Malta International Arts Festival 2016), Paolo Mangiola’s Voyager, (Teatru Manoel, 2018), and Gil Kerer’s work for M.A.D Music and Dance (Malta International Dance Festival 2019).


Several works by Vella have been recorded. These include Mara bil-lejl by the Cosmos Wind Ensemble and Cassa Quddiem Mera by soprano Miriam Cauchi, amongst others. Her piece, Wens, for solo flute, has been performed extensively by notable flautists, such as Rebecca Hall, Aisling Agnew and Laura Falzon to name but a few. The piece was recently broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Wens features on the album by the Agnew McAllister Duo entitled Bidla, named after another of Vella’s compositions, written for flute and guitar.


Aside from working on commissions, Véronique is also in demand as a music educator and pianist. Her most memorable piano performances to date include the premieres of her Concerto for Maria (2015) and Ritratti (2011). Both concertos were performed with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra at Teatru Manoel and were conducted by Mro Brian Schembri and Dr. Michelle Castelletti, respectively.


Currently, Véronique works as class pianist for ŻfinMalta and the Dance Studies Department, University of Malta, where she also lectures in Music.

photo: John Need

Alex Vella Gregory

Alexander Vella Gregory was born in Malta in 1984. He has studied piano with Paul Borg and Joanne Camilleri, and obtained a Fellowship of the London College of Music (FLCM) diploma in 2013. In 2002, he won the Ian Tomlin Napier/Malta Music Scholarship which enabled him to pursue a B.Mus(Hons) degree in composition at the Ian Tomlin School of Music, Napier University, Edinburgh where he graduated in July 2006 with honours. He is active as a composer, pianist, accompanist and teacher.


Alexander has performed in many venues both in Malta and abroad, including Edinburgh, Vienna, Italy and Washington DC. Alex Vella Gregory is also very active as a composer, and his works have been performed in Malta, London, Berlin, Paris, Edinburgh, Vienna, Frankfurt, Prague, Lisbon, Finland, Armenia, Bulgaria, and the USA.


He is also very active in the theatre scene, and has written music for various theatrical productions. Some of these include Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (MADC, 2007), Euripides’ The Bacchae (MADC, 2008) and Arsenic & Old Lace (MADC, 2012). Alex has also worked on site-specific projects including Ospizio (Teatru Anon, Malta Summer Arts Festival, 2010) and Każin Barokk (ODC Ensemble, 2018), a Valletta 2018 devised theatre project directed by Greek theatre director Elli Papakonstantinou. December 2018 saw the premiere of his operetta for voices and wind band called Il-Madonna Tiegħi Aħjar Minn Tiegħek (My Madonna is Better Than Yours) to a libretto by Trevor Zahra, and commissioned by Teatru Malta.


Alexander has participated in several music education projects for children, including The Carnival of Animals (2009), a dance performance for kids, and The Classical Experience (2009), a project which targeted schools. He has also worked on KantaKantun (2014-19), an ongoing education project commissioned by Valletta 2018 Foundation on music and architecture, which will include a special edition for this year’s Żigużajg International Children’s Festival at Spazju Kreattiv, Valletta.


In 2015 two songs from his song cycle Mill-Qamar sal-Qabar were recorded by leading Maltese soprano Miriam Cauchi for her album Riflessi. Another set of songs, this time from the song cycle Verità, were also recorded that same year by soprano Gillian Zammit, mezzo Clare Ghigo and harpist Britt Arend as part of an MPO project. In 2019 his horn quartet Sonata sopra l’Agnus Dei, recorded by the Argotti Ensemble, was released on the album ‘Fantasia’.


Alexander is also an active researcher and has recently been involved with the Notarial Archives Resource Centre in Valletta in the study of several music fragments which were discovered in the cover of an early 19th century volume of notarial deeds. The research was published in late 2018 in Parallel Existences (Kite Publications, 2018) which brings together several papers on the archives as well as photography by Alex Attard. Current research projects include work on the Lost Voices Project focusing on transcriptions of early 20th century popular music recordings in Maltese, and Ritwali, a research project on ritual in Malta.


Alexander holds a PhD in Music Composition with Edinburgh Napier University focusing on city narratives using Valletta as an example. Alexander is also the Artistic Director and a founding member of the Cappella Sanctae Catharinae, Malta’s only male choir. He is a Trustee of the Ian Tomlin Malta Edinburgh Music Scholarship Fund, and a visiting lecturer at the University of Malta.

photo: John Need

Albert Garzia

Maltese composer Albert Garzia (b. 1977) started his musical training as an accordionist at an early age under Dorselle Mifsud with whom he also studied piano performance later on. He started his composition studies with Raymond Sciberras however his formal academic studies were in Industrial Electronics in which industry he worked for the following ten years. The technical background supplemented his incessant fascination for the diverse facets of music which kept leading him to experiment in many of its fields. Interests at the time circled mainly around the performance and production of progressive music. Eventually, he was encouraged to start undergraduate studies in music composition at the University of Malta. There he studied with Dion Buhagiar, John Galea, Joseph Vella and Charles Camilleri among other. He completed his B.A. (Hons.) (with First-Class Honours) read concurrently with a Diploma in Sacred Music. His ‘Wacky Noise Thing’ for orchestra (with which he placed in the Euromed Festival for Composers 2017) and his popular ‘Caricatures from Malta’ (often performed and eventually recorded by the Cosmos Wind Ensemble) helped Garzia gain popularity as a contemporary composer in the music scene.


He was admitted at the School of Composition and Contemporary Music at the Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester) to read for a masters degree in composition which he completed with distinction. There he studied with Adam Gorb, Paul Patterson, Gary Carpenter and David Horne among others.


Garzia's music ranges from orchestral to chamber combinations and has been performed in a variety of settings. Some of his piano music has also been published for pedagogical use. He has also collaborated with various drama companies, choreographers, poets, and film-directors. While being versatile in his approach, his objective is principally an effective musical communication which he strives to achieve by fusing folk elements into a contemporary music language.


His highlights include ‘Bahr’, a 50-minute piece for dance work for ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble and commissioned for the official opening ceremony of the 2017 Maltese EU Presidency. His music has been performed in some of the most prestigious venues such as Munich’s Gasteig, Stuttgart’s Liederhalle, Wiesbaden’s Kurhaus, Berlin’s Philharmonie, and Vienna’s Musikverein.

photo: Daniel Cilia



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