MPO History

The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra is recognised as the foremost professional musical institution on the Maltese islands, bringing together the best of Maltese talent and musicians hailing from ten other countries. Founded in 1968, the Orchestra was formerly known as the Manoel Theatre Orchestra, and was an offspring of the chamber orchestra in the employment of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Navy (Malta). It became an independent body in 1997 when it was officially named the National Orchestra of Malta, and underwent its final transformation in 2008 when it was further extended and became known as the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO).

Since its inception in 1968, the Orchestra has been under the direction of Malta’s most prominent musicians as its resident and principal conductors, including Joseph Sammut, Joseph Vella and Michael Laus. In September 2014 internationally acclaimed conductor Brian Schembri, one of the most brilliant musicians to emerge from Malta, was appointed Principal Conductor and Artistic Director. Having worked with major international orchestras and conducted opera productions world-wide, Brian Schembri is bringing to the MPO a wealth of experience and musical vision that remains unparalleled in in its development to date. Michael Laus continues to be the MPO’s resident conductor, while violinist Carmine Lauri, co-leader of the London Symphony Orchestra, is the MPO’s guest leader for the current season.

The orchestra’s extensive calendar of events, places the MPO as Malta’s leading cultural ambassador. Performing in more than 60 concerts a year, including regular symphonic concerts at the Manoel Theatre and the Mediterranean Conference Centre, annual opera productions in Malta and Gozo, community outreach programmes and a number concerts of a lighter musical genre in various prominent venues around the islands. Since 2005 the MPO has collaborated with foreign orchestras and opera companies, which led to various cultural exchange programmes. The Orchestra performed at the City Hall in Brussels, took part in a production of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte in Palermo and Bernstein’s Candide in Rome. Further concert tours included Brno in 2006, Pesaro in 2007 and Lugano and Zaragoza in 2008. This season the MPO undertook its first tour to China, with performances in eight major cities, and further tours are planned with performances in prestigious venues such the Alte Oper in Frankfurt and at the Expo 2015 in Milan.

Over the years the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra has performed with a number of distinguished artists including Karl Jenkins, Joseph Calleja, Kate Alderich, Andrea Bocelli, Jose Carrera, Bryn Terfel, Miriam Gauci, Ghena Dimitrova, Eva Marton, Ceclia Gasdia, Alexander Kniasev, Andrea Griminelli, Brigitte Engerer, Alexander Rudin, Diego Dini Ciacci, David Campell, Roberto Caminati; world-renowned conductors such as Jean Marc Burfin, Peter Stark, Philip Walsh, Eric Hull, Charles Olivieri-Munroe, Paolo Ponziano Ciardi, Eugene Kohn; and also personalities from the pop world including Zucchero, Michael Bolton and Claudio Baglioni. The orchestra is also a predominant exponent of Maltese composers and performers, hosting competitions for young musicians, with winners featuring during the orchestra’s concert season. The MPO is also actively involved in education programmes for children, involving them in workshops and bespoke performances with programmes targetting children and young families. The MPO is also responsible for the orchestral training, research and professional development of young musicians, through the formation of the MPO Orchestra Academy and the Malta Youth Orchestra.

The MPO recently featured in some highly successful series of CDs, including recordings of outstanding works by the leading Maltese composers; the British Composers Premiere Collections; and Music of 19th Century Jewish German Composers (Cameo Classics). In the near future the MPO will also be collaborating with the international label Naxos in a project featuring works by Maltese composer Charles Camilleri.

Under its new leadership, the MPO today continues to pride itself in developing its vision of delivering music of the highest calibre on the Maltese islands while also promoting our musical heritage abroad.