Reuben Pace

Blog 74 : The Maltese Composer Charles Camilleri: His Life and Musical Style – Part 2 by Dr. Philip Ciantar

The second blog on this short series about the life of the monumental Maltese composer Charles Camilleri starts off with Camilleri’s life from the 1960’s on wards.

Ciantar, Philip. 2014. 'Charles Camilleri: His Life and Musical Style', in Henry Frendo (ed.), Towards Independence and Beyond, The Central Bank of Malta Symposium 2014 (Malta: Gutenberg Press), pp. 57-63.

Back in Europe in the mid-1960s, Camilleri divided his time between Malta and London. It was during this time that we find the composer's interest in the writings of the French philosopher and Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He also became increasingly interested in Maltese folk music, mainly for its inherent improvisatory character and harmonic compromises, as part of a wider musical soundscape encompassing the Mediterranean and even the world. The Maqmn Piano Concerto, for instance, effectively fuses melodic lines inspired by the melodic modes and improvisation of Arabic music with Western musical concepts and techniques. In parallel with that, we see Camilleri resuming his activity in music for popular entertainment, such as with his musical composition and direction for Sax Rohmer's 1969 film The Castle of Fu Manchu and, also, the song called L-Imħabba he wrote for Malta's entry in the 1972 Eurovision song contest.

In the 1970s and 80s we see Camilleri lecturing in composition at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and other acclaimed musical institutions around the world. It was during this phase that he produced his two operas in Maltese, Il-Weghda (1984) and Il-Fidwa tal-Bdiewa (1985), both with libretto by Joe Friggieri; and, in 1985, the first oratorio in Maltese, Pawlu ta' Malta, with a text by Oliver Friggieri.

His appointment as professor of music at the University of Malta in 1992 (a position he held till 1996) occurred in parallel with the composition of the opera Compostella, with a libretto by Peter Serracino Inglott, and two concertos, one for flute and the other for violin. Between 2001 and 2009 (the year in which he died) Camilleri produced no less than two more operas, another oratorio, a cantata, a sonata for horn and piano, a concerto for two pianos and percussion, a suite for wind orchestra, and The New Idea Symphony, a work in which he celebrates the triumph of creativity (Garzia, 2009).

In the third blog about composer Charles Camilleri, Dr. Philip Ciantar talks about Camilleri’s unique stylistic integrity.

Download attachments: thumbnail_camilleri-2.jpg