Malta and Gozo are renowned for their wealth of Baroque structures and buildings. Built during the 17th and 18th centuries, they have left an impressive mark on the Maltese Islands and remain a wonder to see. They also make a splendid background for the annual Valletta Baroque Festival. First introduced in January 2013, the 30+-concert, three-week event has been an anticipated winter spectacle ever since. The forthcoming edition is scheduled between 11 — 28 January 2024 and now’s the time to get your tickets.
Malta and Baroque Architecture
Malta’s Baroque marvels developed when the islands were under the administration of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. It was probably introduced by the Bolognese engineer Bontadino de Bontadini when he oversaw the construction of the Wignacourt Aqueduct to enable fresh water from the northern part of Malta into the capital city of Valletta. It still stands today.
Baroque architecture was used to express the power of the state and the Catholic Church. The style quickly achieved popularity and by middle of the 18th century, construction of many town and village churches adopted the aesthetic, as did important buildings such as the Auberge de Castille, today the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta, Dr Robert Abela.
A number of Auberges (Knights’ houses) were built and were used to accommodate the many knights from European royal houses from localities such as Castille, France, Provence, Italy, Bavaria, etc.
Prior to the Baroque development, the style was Mannerist, designed by the Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar, a great contributor to the development of the island, including various private, governmental and religious buildings. This style was austere and somewhat military, and he had already designed many of the buildings in Valletta after it was built in 1568. A number of these were renovated and externally refurbished to become Baroque.
With such a spectacular backdrop, it was agreed that every January, a Valletta Baroque Festival would be held to showcase Malta’s Baroque glory. It’s now one of the largest music festivals in Matla.
2024 Valletta Baroque Festival
January’s edition will be, as usual, organised by the Manoel Theatre in Valletta, and more than 30 concerts and operas will be performed in this and other Baroque buildings in Valletta and throughout Malta. Among the international artists and performers who have taken part in past festival are Mahan Esfahani, Philippe Herrewegh, Christophe Rousset and Jordi Savall.
Click here to see the full programme, but some of the highlights include:
-*Follia – Dreams, Nightmares, Madness, The Charm of Disorder in Music on Friday, 12 January at 7.30 p.m. at the Valletta Manoel Theatre by the Zefiro Ensemble, under the direction of Alfredo Bernardini, featuring works by Vivaldi, Mozart, and more.
-*Silk Baroque on Saturday, 13 January at 7.30 p.m. at the Manoel Theatre in Valletta featuring Holland Baroque and Wu Wei, featuring traditional and contemporary pieces showcasing the ensemble’s innovative and surprising approach to Baroque music.
-*Salve Regina on Tuesday, 16 January at 7.30 p.m. at the Church of St Catherine in Zurrieq featuring the Abchordis Ensemble with Claire Debono, which will feature compositions by some of the greatest composers of the Baroque period: George Frederic Handel, Nicola Porpora, and Leonardo Leo.
-“Picking Flowers in the Recorder’s Garden of Delights” on Friday, 19 January noon at the Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa with Erik Bosgraaf and Solo Recorders.
*Vivaldi Four Seasons for Harp on Sunday, 21 January at 6 p.m. at the Lapsi Church, St Julians, performed by harpist Keziah Thomas.
*Le Triomphe de l’Amour – French love songs from Lully to Lambert” on Saturday, 27 January at 5.30 p.m. at the Manoel Theatre, Valletta, which explore the essence of love through enchanting sung poetry accompanied by mesmerising music, with André Morch as baritone and Charlene Farrugia on the piano.
If you appreciate the melodious renderings of Baroque music, don’t miss the opportunity to admire it paired with Malta’s magnificent Baroque buildings, which will help you understand why Valletta has been placed on UESCO’s World Heritage list.
For those who love Baroque music and a Baroque environment, these events cannot be missed. Tickets for all events can be purchased here
Plan your visit to Malta.
BeSeeingYou In: Malta
Good To Know: Concerts take place every day during the festival period.
WOW! Factor: 30 wonderful concerts of Baroque music in different localities around Valletta and Malta.
Tip: Book tickets in advance so you don’t miss out on these remarkable events.
Author bio: Albert Fenech
Photos from Heritage Malta