Music at the stroke of midnight | José García Gutiérrez

Denise Azzopardi speaks to French horn player José García Gutiérrez on the occasion of his performance as soloist during the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra’s upcoming concert, Mozart at Midnight, at the Grandmaster’s Palace courtyard in Valletta on May 27

José García Gutiérrez
José García Gutiérrez

How far back does your history of collaboration with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra go?

My relationship with the MPO began in 2011 when they invited me to record a horn concerto by British composer Maurice Blower. I was then already a member of the Malta-based Cosmos Wind Quintet when Michael Laus, who was the MPO’s principal conductor at the time, invited me to record it.

Where are you currently based, and what is your present role within the MPO?

Malta is my base, but I travel a lot to Spain and the UK. I’m guest principal horn of the Orquesta Sinfónica de la Región de Murcia, the MPO, and the London Symphony Orchestra. I also still hold my position as principal horn with Spain’s Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra in Madrid. Moreover, I’m a tutor of French horn and programme coordinator at the Malta Youth Orchestra, and remain an active chamber musician within international ensembles in Spain and in France.

How can you compare Malta’s music scene with Spain’s?

Well, Malta is a small country that has a lot to offer, but I find the music scene to be rather limited – as a professional musician, you can only play in the orchestra or teach at the School of Music. Spain, on the other hand, is a big country where you can come across a multitude of music opportunities: professional bands, many music conservatories, wonderful orchestras and many high-level private schools, like Reina Sofia in Madrid, Musikene in San Sebastián, Esmuc in Barcelona, or Brass Academy in Alicante.

What’s your connection with Maltese music? I know you’ve collaborated with composer Joseph Vella? 

Maestro Vella is one of the most prolific composers in Malta and, in my opinion, one of the best. My wife, Maria Conrad, a violinist brought up in Malta, introduced me to him many years ago. He later asked us to record a couple of pieces from his chamber works.

What is so particular about Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 4 in E flat major? Through which techniques can the soloist present their skill in this piece?

Mozart composed four concertos for horn, three of them in E flat major and No. 1 in D, although some believe that he probably did not compose this one himself. 

Horn Concert No. 4 is the piece that is most often used by orchestras during auditions for principal horns. This concerto has all the elements of Mozart’s music, such as articulation, intonation, flexibility and clear tone. In my opinion, it represents everything that a good horn player should offer as a complete, well-trained musician. It conveys the unmistakable beauty and elegance of his music, coupled with subtle virtuosity, all of which make his music stand out in a special way.

Would you like to express any thoughts and feelings about your upcoming performance in the Mozart at Midnight concert?

I’m really looking forward to participating in this concert, and I’m sure that the audience will truly enjoy the entire musical experience. I am grateful for having the opportunity to play the instrument that I love so much and hear its beautiful sounds reverberate within the intimate setting of such a majestic palace in Valletta.

Mozart at Midnight will take place at the Grandmaster’s Palace courtyard in Valletta on Saturday, May 27 at midnight, under the direction of principal conductor Brian Schembri. 

The musical programme will last one hour. Tickets at €45. All proceeds in aid of the The Malta Community Chest Fund Foundation. 

For bookings and more information, visit

More in Music