VIAF 2019

Gorgeous summertime by Brasstubes and Francis Camilleri

BrassTubes ensemble needs no introduction to local patrons, and foreign expatriates are now used to the excellence of this band, made up of musicians for whom making music is not only fun (as it should be) but also a serious matter.  In fact, all the musicians making up this impressive ensemble are diploma / degree holders from prestigious conservatoires and universities respectively.  To top it all, their director, Mark Gauci, is arguably one of Malta’s top performers.  Not only is he a supremely talented performers but he is a sound musician.  As we have had occasion to state elsewhere, that makes all the difference.

Joining BrassTubes is one of the islands’ most promising pianists — Francis James Camilleri.  Blessed with a natural talent which is coupled with a formidable technique, having Francis on the scene is a guarantee of success.  Combining this pianist with this ensemble was a formula for success.

The one-hour concert kicked off with Rossini’s Theme and Variations.  Arranged for wind band by Mark Gauci, the soloist was George Camilleri on the euphonium, arguably one of the best (if not the best) euphonium player Malta is blessed with.  Dazzling technique coupled with a powerful insight for interpretation assured that this wonderful piece displayed both the ‘bel canto’ element in its melodies together with the devilish pyrotechnical leaps and bounds Rossini is so famous for.  Spanish Trumpet by Deefort saw yet another promising soloist, this time Robert Buttigieg on the trumpet. He was accompanied at the piano by Francis Camilleri.   As the title suggests, this work evokes Spanish melodies and rhythms intertwined in a fascinating manner to create a colourful work of both lyrical beauty and virtuosic cadenzas for the trumpet. The piano marked its entry with a powerful statement but subsided abruptly with solitary notes, and the trumpet entered with a lyrical melody, almost as if in mediation. This opening theme was heard throughout the work, either in the solo part or in a more subdued manner in the piano part. The trumpet and piano were often in dialogue with each other, creating a sense of unity and balance between both instruments. Although the music took on a more dramatic tone towards the middle section, the overall ambience was very serene, as if in a kind of reverie. Balance was impeccably maintained throughout the piece and it was impressive to note the clarity of tone emanating from the trumpet.

Young Francis Camilleri bore the brunt of the evening’s burden with a mini-recital equitably poised halfway through the programme.  He intelligently chose a series of Preludes, ranging from Debussy, to Rachmaninov, to Joseph Vella and finally to Scriabin.  His is the magic touch, supple, light yet firm, and utterly beautiful.  The shimmering impressionism of Debussy followed by the profoundly moving melancholy of Rachmaninov, on to the infinitesimally subtle texture of Joseph Vella and finally to the robustness of Scriabin — Francis glided seamlessly from one mood and tone to another, differentiating between the sometimes minute differences even in single notes, creating a glorious canvas of infinite colour.  Sublime does not begin to describe his playing.

George Camilleri reemerged to interpret Paganini’s famous Cantabile, originally scored for violin.  With such musical performers, one realises it really does not matter all that much to engage with transcribed music so long as the tone is captured and transmitted.  With Francis at the piano and George at the euphonium, the piece was beautifully rendered.  Wonderful Gershwin brought this lovely recital to a brilliant close.  With various melodies from the American icon’s works, the ensemble blended beautifully.  Mark Gauci was in full control throughout, clear and articulate in his direction, passionate and involved in his understanding of the works.

A truly wonderful evening.  With BrassTubes and Francis Camilleri in summer, the livin’ is easy indeed!