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Music in aid of brain research | Michael Laus

We speak to Malta Philharmonic Orchestra Michael Laus ahead of an upcoming concert at the St Publius Church in Floriana – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons featuring violinist Carmine Lauri, which will be a collaboration with RIDT in aid of brain research

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
21 March 2016, 8:33am
Michael Laus (centre)
Michael Laus (centre)
How would you describe your career as conductor throughout the last 25 years? What would you say were some of the most rewarding moments of your career?

When I became Music Director of the Manoel Theatre Orchestra, 25 years ago, it was a new experience for me. Although I had studied conducting in Italy, my main musical activities till then were as a pianist in solo and chamber work. I took up the conducting post with enthusiasm, knowing that there was much that needed to be developed with this orchestra. The beginning was not easy, but as the years rolled on, we became used to each other.

Together we built a wide repertoire ranging from baroque to contemporary music. There were many highlights in my conducting career. If I had to pinpoint three, I would choose the performances of the Verdi Requiem at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique in the Rossini Theatre of Pesaro and a concert with the Bratislava Philharmonic in Hannover.   

More generally, what would you say were some of the most important developments in the Maltese musical scene, since you became active within it?

The musical scene has changed radically over 25 years. There are now many foreign musicians with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, and this has greatly enriched the music-making. Many more young Maltese musicians now have the possibility to further their studies abroad, especially in the UK or in Italy, with the result that the general standard is considerably higher now. The quality and number of musical events has also increased considerably.

The music studies course at the University of Malta has enabled a number of young people to specialise in composition, performance and musicology and this has also enriched music culture on the island. There are a number of young Maltese composers with exciting and new ideas.

In light of this upcoming concert, to what would you attribute the enduring popularity of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons? 

I am always amazed at how popular the Four Seasons are, even with persons who do not usually attend concerts of symphonic music. I think that the popularity is mainly due to the fact that the music is refreshing and rhythmically energetic, and is also open to a type of stylish, ‘modern’ interpretation, which makes it sound eternally young. I know of no other work with this sort of appeal, except maybe Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

And on a related note, given that the concert is being organised by RIDT, in what further ways do you think the world of music and academic – even medical – research can collaborate more closely? 

Academic research is of paramount importance to music. Historically-informed performance practice, which depends on research, has changed the way that music of all periods up to the 19th century is performed today.

Musicologists, music historians and musicians work hand in hand to discover ways in which music was performed in the past centuries, how musical instruments of the past sounded like, and also to unearth, edit and perform musical scores which have been buried for hundreds of years in archives.

Musicians can help medical research in the most obvious manner, by raising funds, but also and especially by raising awareness – I hope our upcoming performance of the Four Seasons will be a catalyst in this sense.

The concert will take place on Easter Sunday – March 27 – at St Publius Church in Floriana at 19:30hrs. This special performance is being held in aid of brain research and organised by the University of Malta Research Trust (RIDT) in collaboration with the Malta Neuroscience Network. Entrance tickets at €60, €30 and €25 may be booked from St James Cavalier on 2122 3200 or online: http://ow.ly/VESsk

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...
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