Enjoy one of Europe’s highly regarded Baroque Music Festivals
Works by Bach, Handel, Lully, Rameau, Vivaldi & others
Performers include Les Musiciens du Louvre, La Serenissima & Ensemble Phoenix
Discover Malta’s extraordinary history ranging over six thousand years
Historic 5* Phoenicia Hotel in Valletta
Malta’s small scale belies the number and range of truly fascinating sites, monuments and artistic treasures to be found on the island. The Malta Tourism Authority has long been active in promoting cultural visits and eight years ago it launched a truly innovative Winter Festival based in Valletta, devoted to Baroque Music across the centuries. Now growing into maturity, the Festival has established itself as a serious ‘player’ on the international music scene and singers, musicians and orchestras of the highest calibre are regular participants.
Performances take place in a series of splendid seventeenth and eighteenth century historic buildings including Valetta’s Manoel Theatre and some of the city’s finest churches, with in 2020 a new range of fine venues elsewhere on the island included for the first time. Thus, we have no hesitation in recommending this visit to all those who would like to combine truly remarkable music with some gently paced visits – all in the soft light and winter warmth of the southern Mediterranean and performed within some splendid buildings, some of which are not normally accessible.
We have chosen what we believe will be some of the 2020 Festival’s musical highlights, coinciding with the opening weekend. These include the internationally acclaimed Les Musiciens du Louvre, the English ensemble La Serenissima and Ensemble Phoenix from Munich. Works by Bach, Handel and Rameau together with some of the great Italian Baroque composers such as Corelli and Vivaldi will also feature. Transfers to and from all the included performances will be provided for participants.
In support of this musical feast, we shall also include a number of gently paced visits designed to introduce you to Malta’s history. Its antiquity should not be doubted as the island has Europe’s most remarkable group of monuments from the pre-classical world, many of them literally awe-inspiring. The Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans all knew Malta and appreciated its logistical worth. This strategic importance continued throughout medieval times as both Christianity and Islam developed a keen interest in keeping Malta within their respective spheres of influence.
The Habsburg Emperor, Charles V, gave Malta to the homeless Knights of St John as a permanent base, hoping they would secure the island against Ottoman attack and this military role became the island’s principal function. Napoleon expelled the Knights and following his defeat, the British took control. Thus the island once again became an important staging post as more recent ‘Imperial’ strategies developed. This helps explain the long and friendly links between Malta and Britain, leavened by Malta’s geographical proximity both to North Africa and to Italy. Indeed, this mixing of Mediterranean cultures with British norms makes Malta particularly attractive.
We shall spend five nights in Valletta at the historic and very comfortable 5* Phoenicia Hotel. It is perfectly placed for our explorations of this lovely walled city and the wider island. Transfers to and from all concerts and recitals are included.
Day by day
- Day 1: Friday 10 January
- On arrival in Valletta we check into our hotel, the 5* Phoenicia. We have an early group dinner after which we attend the opening concert of the Festival at the historic Teatru Manoel when Les Musiciens du Louvre will recreate an evening of music in eighteenth century London, based on the infamous rivalry between Handel and his contemporary Nicola Porpora.
- Day 2: Saturday 11 January
- We begin with a gently paced walking tour when we visit the Archaeology Museum followed by the splendidly decorated St. John’s Co-Cathedral, the main resting place for the Knights of Malta. The most famous work of art in the Cathedral is Caravaggio’s monumental painting of The Beheading of St John the Baptist. We continue on foot to the Franciscan Church of St Mary of Jesus for a midday concert of concertos by Vivaldi, Couperin, Naudot, Buxtehude and Telemann, after which we have a late group lunch. The remainder of the afternoon will be at leisure and this evening’s concert in the Collegiate Church of St Paul will be given by La Serenissima, devoted to sacred works by Vivaldi, including his famous Gloria.
- Day 3: Sunday 12 January
- This morning you will have some free time after which we drive inland to the Verdala Palace, the official summer residence of Malta’s President located in the historic Buskett Gardens, for a midday concert given by Les Contre-Sujets with music by William Friedemann Bach, Handle and Telemann. After our group lunch, we continue to the Teatru Manoel for the late afternoon concert given by La Serenissima, a truly festive selection of concertos by Telemann, Fasch and Vivaldi with oboes, bassoons, trumpets and timpani all making their mark felt. The rest of the evening will be at leisure.
- Day 4: Monday 13 January
- Mdina is a fascinating town, dominating the centre of the island and was its capital before the arrival of the Knights in the sixteenth century. It is particularly rich in buildings from the Baroque period and these will be the focus of our morning, including the Cathedral and Palazzo Falson. We have a group lunch in Mdina and return to our hotel for a rest and this evening’s concert will be in Naxxar’s Palazzo Pariso when Ensemble Phoenix Munich will present English, French and Italian music of the late Renaissance and early Baroque.
- Day 5: Tuesday 14 January
- We walk to visit The Grandmaster’s Palace, the central governing location of the Knights of Malta where the historic interiors are furnished in lavish style. Nearby we have a private visit to the historic home of one of Valetta’s aristocratic families, followed by some free time for lunch, not included. This afternoon we drive to Birgu, the first maritime town on the island, to visit the ‘Malta at War’ Museum and the atmospheric Inquisitors Palace. We return to our hotel and later this evening we have a final group dinner in a local restaurant. Alternatively, if you prefer you can book separately to attend a concert by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra in the Teatru Manoel, featuring modern music inspired by Couperin and JS Bach.
- Day 6: Wednesday 15 January
- Our final morning will be free and we conclude this tour with a midday performance of JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations, played by Jory Vinikous on harpsichord at St Augustine’s Church. After some free time for a snack lunch, not included, we continue to the airport for the return flight back to the UK.
- Price: £2,385 per person
- Price without flights: £2,235
- Deposit: £300
- Single Supplement: £250 (Double Room for Sole Use)
- Tour Manager: James Hill
5 nights with breakfast at the 5* Hotel Phoenicia
£300 per room Harbour View (Subject to availability)
Outward: KM101 Depart London Heathrow (Terminal 4) 1125, arrive Malta 1535
Return: KM102 Depart Malta 1650, arrive London Heathrow (Terminal 4) 1925
7 concerts, 2 dinners & 3 lunches with wine, water & coffee, all local transfers, entry fees & gratuities, services of Glorianne Mizzi & Tour Manager James Hill
Travel to/from Heathrow, 3 dinners & 2 lunches
Weather Conditions for Malta in January are:
Average Temperature between: 9oC - 16oC / 48.2oF - 60.8oF
Rainfall: 95mm / 3.7inches
Optional Extra Concert
In lieu of dinner, evening of Day 5: Tuesday 14 January
We do expect a reasonable level of fitness. For full details see our frequently asked questions.