Pre­miered cho­ral and or­ches­tral work by mae­stro Mark Agius

Malta Independent - - LIFESTYLE & CULTURE - Dr Ly­dia But­tigieg

On the day of the feast of St Ur­sula, at a solemn mass held on Fri­day, 21 Oc­to­ber, at the church of the Monastery of the Gerosolim­i­tan Clois­tered Nuns of St Ur­sula in Val­letta, the St Paul’s Cham­ber Ensem­ble, un­der the di­rec­tion of Mark Agius, mae­stro di Cap­pella of the Church of St Ur­sula, pre­miered a fully-fledged sa­cred cho­ral work for soloists, SATB and cham­ber or­ches­tra which con­sisted of strings, wood­winds, French horn and or­gan. Holy mass was cel­e­brated by His Grace Arch­bishop Charles Sci­cluna to a well-at­tended con­gre­ga­tion and at which Knights and Dames of the Sov­er­eign Mil­i­tary Or­der of Malta were also in at­ten­dance.

Mae­stro Agius com­posed the Missa Solem­nis Sancti Mar­titi (2016), in­clud­ing an An­ti­fon to St Ur­sula scored to a poem penned by Gemma Dingli, for the oc­ca­sion. The soloists who mas­tered and ex­e­cuted their in­di­vid­ual parts with ut­most com­pe­tence were sung by well-ac­com­plished artists who need no in­tro­duc­tion to our lo­cal scene, namely Anita Vella Bondin and Karen Gatt Dar­me­nia (so­pra­nos), Arthur Mi­callef (tenor), May Caru­ana (con­tralto), Ivan Vella (bari­tone) and James Vella Bondin (bass).

The over­all har­monic or­gan­i­sa­tion of the work is rem­i­nis­cent of the Ro­man School 16th-cen­tury rep­re­sen­ta­tive stile an­tico style, dis­play­ing in­tri­cate and com­plex poly­phonic tex­tures, sup­ported by chordal pas­sages by both the or­ches­tra and or­gan. Mae­stro Agius’ style of com­po­si­tion has led him to em­ploy in­ter­chang­ing un­re­lated mod­u­la­tions be­tween the sec­tions; pro­duc­ing elab­o­rate and lyri­cal melodic con­tours be­tween the vo­cal parts. The work also em­ploys 16th and 17th-cen­tury im­i­ta­tive coun­ter­point, dou­bling of voices be­tween the so­pra­nos and tenor, and also in­cor­po­rates dis­so­nant higher di­a­tonic chords which led the whole com­po­si­tion to a whole di­men­sional sphere of sounds and tex­tures.

The sa­cred work, set to the tra­di­tional Latin text, con­tained four main move­ments: Kyrie (And­nate e solenne), Glo­ria (An­dante maestoso), Sanc­tus et Bene­dic­tus (Ada­gio con de­vozione) and Agnus Dei (Ada­gio con de­vozione). At the end of the mass, Mae­stro Agius pre­sented the scores of the Mass and An­ti­fon to Madre Agnes, Pri­oress of the Gerosolim­i­tan Clois­tered Nuns of St Ur­sula, who thanked all those who made this won­der­ful and pres­ti­gious oc­ca­sion pos­si­ble.

The St Paul’s Cham­ber Ensem­ble has other im­por­tant fu­ture en­gage­ments on their agenda which in­cludes two Christ­mas Con­certs to be held on 13 and 17 De­cem­ber at Paola Par­ish Church and Balzan Par­ish Church, re­spec­tively. The ensem­ble is also em­bark­ing on a ma­jor per­for­mance ded­i­cated to the works by Mae­stro Joseph Sam­mut, a prom­i­nent con­duc­tor and com­poser who led the then Na­tional Or­ches­tra of Malta for nearly 25 years.

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