top of page

Beethoven - Shostakovich

Beethoven - Shostakovich

Malta International Arts Festival 2024

The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO), under the baton of Michael Laus, presents two masterworks: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and Cello Concerto No 1 by Shostakovich featuring cellist Konstatin Manaev. Beethoven Fifth Symphony is the symphony that revolutionized music forever. Beethoven obsessively pursues the opening four notes throughout the entire first movement and much of the other three. The essence of Beethoven’s genius was that he could take the simplest building blocks of the classical style and construct radically new, monumental works with them. In Cello Concerto No 1 by Dmitri Shostakovich we also find a four note motif which opens the first movement (Allegretto). The four notes are derived from the DSCH motif, a series of pitches which correspond to the composer’s initials using the German alphabet, and which return throughout his works. Similar to Beethoven’s opening four notes, this bold motif repeats with obsessive persistence. This concert also includes the orchestral work Cataclysmus by Maltese composer Kristian Schembri.


Kristian Schembri


Dmitri Shostakovich

Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 107 

I. Allegretto

II. Moderato

III. Cadenza (attacca)

IV. Allegro con moto


Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67

I. Allegro con brio 

II. Andante con moto 

III. Scherzo: Allegro 

IV. Allegro – Presto

Programme Notes

Cataclysmus - Kristian Schembri

I wrote Cataclymus in the summer of 2020, a time of turbulence, uncertainty, and drastic change.

In this work, I sought to express a sense of the inevitable eruption that seems to be ever-present

in the transition between epochs. Contrary to much other music from the same time that focuses

on humanity and emotional outpouring, Cataclysmus goes beyond the human condition, as it is a

sonic contemplation and imagining of this momentous epochal climax. After the tumult of the

middle section, the work concludes with an open-ended segment, one which is neither lamenting,

nor rejoicing in the arrival of the new epoch, albeit the skepticism that subtly creeps into the

musical fabric.

Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 - Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is arguably one of the most iconic pieces of classical music ever composed, as well as one of the most iconoclastic. It has also come to represent the very essence of classical music itself. Music lovers know it backwards and forwards, and even those who have never attended an orchestra concert nonetheless recognize the opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth, as it is informally known, immediately. Since the Fifth’s premiere on a cold December night in Vienna, it has become a lens through which we have viewed music, society, and culture. Early audiences heard in its notes an exhortation of victory and triumph, whether literal or of a more internal, personal kind. “This symphony invariably wields its power over men of every age like those great phenomena of nature. It will be heard in future centuries, as long as music and the world exist.” – Robert Schumann on Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony

Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 107 - Dmitri Shostakovich

Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 was completed in the summer of 1959 and given its first performance the following October by Mstislav Rostropovich and the Leningrad Philharmonic under the composer’s favorite conductor, Evgeny Mravinsky. This concerto is marked by mocking wit alternating with abject gloom - the qualities that kept Shostakovich in hot water with the cultural commissars for much of his creative life. The opening movement has a simple, four-note rhythmic motto theme, essential to the entire structure of the movement, that is brought back at the work’s end. The poignant slow movement features a broad cantilena theme for the cello answered by clarinets, followed by a particularly striking melody for muted violins. The movement winds down with a dramatic diminuendo riff for the solo instrument, involving eerie harmonics, the solo horn joining in against the ghostly tinkling of the celesta. This leads without break into the third movement, a ferociously demanding solo cadenza based on themes from the preceding movements. This, again without pause, dumps us into the slashing finale, which concludes with restatements of earlier material by solo horn, then high winds, the cello itself, timpani, and ultimately by all the winds, whose howling is cut short by some decisive timpani strikes.


Konstantin Manaev
Photo: Zuzanna Specjal

Konstantin Manaev is an internationally renowned cellist, nominated for the ICMA 2023 (International Classical Music Award) and the Opus Klassik Award 2022. He captivates audiences worldwide and garners critical acclaim for his performances in leading cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, Berlin, Zurich, Vienna, Milan and Tokyo. In 2019 on invitation of Maestro Teodor Currentzis, Konstantin became principal cellist of Currentzis’ ensemble MusicAeterna. Many modern composers have dedicated new works to Konstantin including the well known Austrian composer Johanna Doderer, whose cello concerto he premiered this year. The current season brings the world premiere recording of a double concerto for cello and violin by Australian composer and conductor Gordon Hamilton, concerts with Signum Saxophone Quartet at Alte Oper Frankfurt and at the Stradivari Festival in Cremona, as well as his solo debut with the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra. Konstantin Manaev currently performs on a cello by Johannes Theodorus Cuypers, anno 1762.


Michael Laus

Michael Laus graduated in piano, harpsichord and composition at the Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi of Milan in 1982. He later participated in master classes in conducting given by George Manahan in the United States and Vladimir Delman in Bologna. Principal Conductor of Malta’s national orchestra for twenty-five years and now its Resident Conductor, he has conducted the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra in symphonic concerts in Malta, Belgium and Italy. He was the founder and first music director of the Malta Youth Orchestra and of the Goldberg Ensemble, a group specializing in baroque and classical music. In 2016, he conducted the first European performance of Arvo Pärt’s Greater Antiphons. He opened the first edition of the Valletta International Baroque Festival with Vivaldi’s Quattro stagioni. Michael Laus has conducted the Bournemouth Symphony, the Slovak Philharmonic, the New Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Orquesta Sinfonica de Asturias. He has directed several operatic productions at the Berne State Theatre and in Oviedo. These include new productions of Adriana Lecouvreur, Otello, Madama Butterfly and L’amico Fritz. He regularly appears in the double role of pianist/harpsichordist and conductor in a concerto repertoire ranging from baroque to twentieth-century works. In this double role, he has won international critical acclaim for his recording of Cyril Scott’s Harpsichord Concerto. In November 2023, he organized and performed in the first cycle in Malta of Beethoven’s thirty-two piano sonatas, performed in chronological order. He has recorded for Discover International, Unicorn-Khanchana and Cameo Classics. He is Associate Professor in Music Studies at the University of Malta.

Malta Philharmonic Orchestra

Photo: Darren Agius

The orchestra was founded in April 1968, when musicians from the recently disbanded “Commander-in-Chief” (C-in-C) orchestra of the Malta-based British Mediterranean Fleet regrouped as the Manoel Theatre Orchestra. It continued to serve as the theatre’s resident orchestra until September 1997, when it became an independent orchestra, taking up the name National Orchestra of Malta. The orchestra became the MPO in 2008 when it expanded into a full-size symphony orchestra, bringing together musicians from Malta, Europe and beyond. As Malta’s leading musical institution, the MPO averages more than one performance a week including symphonic concerts, opera productions in Malta and Gozo, community outreach and educational initiatives, as well as various concerts of a lighter nature. During the past seasons, the MPO embarked on a Digital Transformation reaching audiences worldwide through its Online Programme. The orchestra has performed in leading venues across the globe, including in the United States, Russia, Dubai, Germany, Austria, China, Italy, Spain and Belgium. The MPO is a keen exponent of Maltese composers, regularly performing their works in Malta and overseas, as well as frequently premiering and commissioning new compositions. It is also responsible for the training and professional development of the next generation of Maltese musicians.



Cello - Konstantin Manaev

Musicians - Malta Philharmonic Orchestra

Conductor - Michael Laus

In collaboration with the Teatru Manoel and Malta Philharmonic Orchestra

22 June 2024
Teatru Manoel, Old Theatre Street, Valletta
Yes - 20mins
1hr 40mins (40mins - 20min interval - 40mins)
Stalls - €20
Parterre & Boxes - €20
Parterre & Boxes (Concession) - €10
Audience Level
Minimum Age: 8 years
Other Dates
Terms & Conditions
Concessions are applicable to senior citizens (over 60 years), persons with *disability, students (on presentation of student card), European Youth Card holders, and children up to 12 years.

*Persons with disability can send an email to for a complimentary companion ticket (on presentation of a valid disability card - subject to availability).

Only the Parterre Boxes are accessible to wheelchairs. Some Boxes and Parterre Boxes have limited visibility, as indicated in the seating plan. These will be sold at a reduced price (Concession not applicable).

All prices are inclusive of VAT

Malta International Arts Festival 2024

Beethoven - Shostakovich

bottom of page