Stabat Mater

9 NOVEMBER 2019 

Ta' Ġieżu Church, Valletta - 8:00pm

in collaboration with



Anon (ed. Joseph Vella)                                   Motet - Curre ad Virginem (soprano, 2 violins & continuo)



G Balzano (ed. Natasha Chircop)                  Ad Cantus ad Plausus (soprano, alto & continuo)



Mikel Ang’ Vella (ed. Fra Richard Divall)       Sonata for 3 violins & continuo op 1 no 6


Girolamo Abos                                                  Stabat Mater (2 sopranos, alto, 2 violins & continuo)

Programme Notes

Malta’s Catholic tradition across the ages has resulted in the commission of a vast amount of musical compositions to be played during the major events of the church’s calender namely, Christmas, Easter and the ‘festas’ which honour different saints. However, only a small number of these works by Maltese composers became part of the staple repertoire which are still considered irreplaceable particularly in village ‘festas’.


The musical scores which fell into oblivion and relegated to the archives were brought back to life in the 70’s when they were edited and performed. This project revealed a number of composers who had been previously unknown.


The programme presented by ViBE offers the works of four composers. The two motets by anonymous composers are extant at the Mdina Archives and were edited by the late Joseph Vella in the early 70’s. They are flanked by Vella’s Sonata for 3 violins and Girolamo Abos’ exquisite Stabat Mater.


It is indeed an honour and a pleasure for ViBE to serve as an ambassador for the revival of these and many more works from the island’s rich musical legacy

Mikel’ Angelo Vella (1710 - 1792)

Sonata Opus 1 No. 1, for 3 violins and continuo (ed. Fra Richard Divall)

Mikel’ Angelo Vella was born on the 7th of November 1710 in Senglea Malta, where he is

credited for being the first to introduce the secular cantata to the islands. In 1730 Vella left

for Naples where he commenced studies at the Conservatorio di Santa Maria della Pieta’ dei Turchini and after he was ordained a secular priest in the Diocese of Acerra, returned to Malta in 1738 where he initially served as Maestro di Cappella of Senglea and later also at Cospicua. He also started the first school in  Malta that was modelled on those in Italy devoted to train musicians where amongst his  students were Azzopardi, Burlò, Isouard and Magri, all significant musicians and composers in the middle to late 18th Century. The sonata we are hearing today which is very rarely heard, is taken from a collection of six sonatas published in Paris in 1768 and are dedicated to Fra Adrien de la Vieuville d’Orville de Wignacourt. This work was also edited by Australian musicologist and conductor the late Fra Richard Divall.

Anon (ed. Joseph Vella)

Motet – Jubila Propera Festina

During the reign of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem in Malta, two main musical milieus

where present. These consisted of the Mdina Cathedral, sustained by the Università and

Bishop Baldassere Cagliares (1615-1633), and St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta massively

supported by the urban affluent and cosmopolitan Order of St. John. The Città Notabile, as Mdina was frequently known, with its rich collection of Medieval and Baroque manuscripts, managed to remain the leading figure of sacred music on the Maltese islands leading to Sicilian musicologist Paolo Carapezza’s description of the Mdina music collection as “certainly the most important south of Naples”. Previously unknown to 

musicologists, these musical manuscripts had languished in the cellars of the Mdina Cathedral for centuries, only to be revived in the mid-1970s through the initiative of Mons. John Azzopardi, at the time curator of the museum, and the painstaking work by Joseph Vella and Vincenzo Bonello. A study of these archives has brought to light interesting documents related to past musical activities, amongst them the one we are listening to today, the motet Jubila Propera Festina by an anonymous composer, edited by Maltese composer and musicologist Joseph Vella.

Girolamo Abos (1715-1760)

Stabat Mater (ed. Joseph Vella)

Girolamo Abos was born in Malta in 1715. At a very young age, he was sent to Naples to

study. His career took off in 1742 through the commission of the opera buffo for the Teatro

Nuovo. As was customary at the time, Abos used to teach at the S.Maria della Pietà dei

Turchini, where he had Paisiello as one of his students. He was well known in Europe, where

he traveled extensively. He died in 1760 leaving behind many operas and sacred works.

The Stabat Mater was composed within the 

tradition of contemporary Neapolitan settings

meant for the Roman Catholic Holy week 

liturgy. The scoring for voices, strings and continuo is memorable for its melodic elegance, harmonic purity, and inventive design. Considered to be one of his most representative masterpieces, the work was extremely popular during his time and very much admired for many decades, and its seven known extant manuscript copies serve as evidence of this. After this time, the Stabat Mater fell into almost complete oblivion.

ViBE - Valletta Baroque Ensemble

The ensemble brings together leading musicians who share an infectious enthusiasm for making music, and who seek to breathe life into jewels of early music as if the ink were still fresh on the score. The idea of creating ViBE was sown around twelve years ago, over a meal between musician friends. Someone lamented the lack of a specialist group to perform the rich repertoire of Maltese baroque works and

suggested that it might be a good idea to set up such an ensemble. A playful proposal perhaps, but one which led, several years (and much effort) later, to the birth of the Valletta Baroque Ensemble, a group committed to historically informed performance on original instruments of Renaissance to late Baroque music.


The memorable inaugural concert, held in December 2012, featured the participation

of Dame Emma Kirkby. This was just a few weeks before the first edition of the Valletta International Baroque Festival, of which ViBE was (and still is) the resident ensemble. As one would expect, the Festival provides an important and prestigious platform for the group, but ViBE’s activities are not limited to its yearly participation at this international musical kermesse. Over the past years, ViBE has organised several exciting concerts of Renaissance and Baroque repertoire both in Malta and abroad, with an emphasis on the music of Maltese composers such as Abos,

Balzano, Zerafa and Mikel’Angelo Vella and compositions found at the Mdina Cathedral archives.


These events have seen the group work and perform alongside leading world authorities in the field. ViBE regularly hosts workshops led by foreign Baroque specialists as part of its commitment to nurture young musicians in the acquisition of Baroque instrumental techniques.


In May 2017 ViBE held a tour of Berlin, Paris and Madrid as part of the EU Presidency Cultural Showcase with a programme featuring baroque music from Malta, Spain, France and Germany. Upcoming performances include a collaboration with Moveo Dance company featuring traditional Baroque dances infused with contemporary dance for the 2020 edition of the Valletta International Baroque Festival.

Artist Bios

Gillian Zammit - Soprano

Gillian Zammit began her vocal training in Malta with Antoinette Miggiani and Paul

Asciak and went on to study in Italy with Carlo Bergonzi and Victoria de los Angeles. Gillian is a versatile performer with an operatic repertoire that ranges from Baroque to 20th Century opera. Operatic productions include Semele and The Turn of The Screw, Gianni Schicchi and Hansel and Gretel. She is a regular performer at Teatru Manoel. Recent operatic roles include Euridice in the Manoel’s production of Gluck’s

opera Orfeo and Euridice conducted by Philip Walsh. She has worked with many established artists including Joseph Calleja, Andrea Bocelli and Emma Kirkby.


Gillian is also highly regarded as a recital singer with a varied repertoire of Lieder, Spanish and French song having performed Richard Strauss’ ‘Four Last Songs’ with the Malta Philarmonic Orchestra (MPO) conducted by Brian Schembri and most recently Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’Ete with Raoul Lay and the MPO. She is also a respected exponent of Baroque music recording a number of Maltese works with Joseph Vella and performs regularly with the Valletta Baroque Ensemble (ViBE) and in the Valletta International Baroque Festival.


She recently released her debut solo CD entitled ‘The Love Songs of Paolo Tosti’ with pianist Lucia Micallef and has been signed up by UK record label Claudio Records. Another recent CD release is Aprile recorded under the auspices of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. Gillian has performed in Germany, America, UK,

France, Armenia and Romania.

Francesca Aquilina - Soprano

Francesca Aquilina completed the MA Opera course at the RWCMD where she studied with Suzanne Murphy and was coached by Sharon Richards and Angela Livingstone. In Malta she trains with soprano, Gillian Zammit who has been her mentor and tutor for nearly 20 years. She received a Bachelor of Music (Honours)

first class degree from Edinburgh Napier University.


Her roles have included Gretel in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, Bastienne in Mozart’s Bastien and Bastienne, Inez in Verdi’s Il Trovatore, Eurydice in Opera’r Ddraig’s production of Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, Despina with the same company for their production of Così fan Tutte, Adina in Winterbourne Opera’s production of The Elixir Of Love, Jenny in Welsh National Opera’s touring production of My Perfect World. She has also sung with Clonter Opera as well as singing with ViBE in London as part of the CHOGM Malta celebrations. Francesca’s role in Teatru Manoel production include Giannetta in L’Elisir d’Amore & Amore in Orfeo ed Euridice and Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro.


She has performed in concerts all around the UK as well as in Italy, France and Germany and has premiered the works of several prominent Maltese composers. In 2018, she toured in the Netherlands with a Dutch company where she played the role of the High Priestess in Opera Spanga’s production of Aida and as part of the V18 programme in Malta. She is a member of the Monteverdi Project in Malta which has

led her to sing in many prominent early music concerts and festivals.

Alessandra Vavasori - Mezzo Soprano

Alessandra Vavasori, born in Venice, graduated from the Venice Conservatory in Organ and Organ Composition, Gregorian chant and Pre-polyphonic music and Harpsicord. She also graduated from Mantua Conservatory specializing in Singing and studied Composition at the Vivaldi Conservatory of Alessandria and holds a Diploma in Singing from the same conservatory. She has held performances both as an organist and as a singer in national (Italy) and international festivals namely in France, Germany, Poland and Malta. 


In 1998 Alessandra debuted with the leading role of Dorina in Galuppi’s Le Nozze di Dorina

and the following year placed first at the international competition L. Marenzio of Coccaglio. In 2000 she sang the role of Lena in Galuppi’s Il Filosofo di Campagna after winning a national selection. Alessandra has premiered a number of contemporary works which have

also been broadcast on radio and currently holds courses in singing and Baroque

interpretation. She has recorded for Musica 




Rediviva, Tactus and Brilliant Classic.

As a soloist Alessandra has sung under the direction of Oren, Desderi, Radulescu, Fasolis,

Coluimbro, Capuano, Vartolo, Clemencic and Jais.


In 2015 she made her debut at the Gran Teatro La Fenice of Venice in the Gluck’s Alceste,

followed by Janacek’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared. In 2016 she won the role of the

aunt in Butterfly, under the direction of Myung-whun Chung and has been directed for the

same role by Daniele Callegari in the 2017.


Alessandra performs regularly as a choir artist at the Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi in Trieste,

Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice, Teatro Regio in Parma, Teatro Regio in Torino, Teatro Carlo

Felice in Genoa, Arena di Verona, Teatro dell’ Opera di Roma and Teatro Comunale di Bologna.



Gillian Zammit 

Francesca Aquilina



Alessandra Vavasori


Valletta Baroque Ensemble



Sarah Spiteri

Tatjana Chircop

Jean Noel Attard 



Jacob Portelli 



Joanne Camilleri 


Pablo Zapico

© Festivals Malta - 2019