The Santa Maria ta’ Bir Miftuħ Church was packed to capacity and made a lovely setting for the concluding concert of the Bir Miftuħ International Music Festival organized by Din l-Art Ħelwa. The concert, sponsored by the non-resident Israeli Ambassador to Malta, – Ambassador David is based in Jerusalem – featured the very talented Israeli duo: classical guitarist Liat Cohen and flutist Eyal Ein-Habar who performed works by the Italian guitar virtuoso, Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829), and two Brazilian composers Héitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) and Zequinha de Abreu (1880-1935).
Giuliani was born in Bisceglie in Puglia and studied in Barletta from where he undertook a highly successful tour in Europe and eventually settled in Vienna in 1807. He concentrated his studies on the string instruments, notably the cello, and concentrated on the six-string guitar, gaining international renown and acclaim as a teacher, performer and composer. He left Vienna in 1819, spending some four years in Rome before retiring to Naples, where he died in 1829. Giuliani’s four-movement Grande Sonata op. 85, composed in 1817, opened the evening’s fare. Cohen and Ein-Habar showed such an excellent rapport and a fantastic understanding of the music that one would have thought they had been performing together as an established duo for many years. Nothing could have been farther from the truth: this Bir Miftuħ event was the debut of these two outstanding musicians as a duo. The two concluded their programme with Giuliani’s Grande Duetto Concertante op. 52, an earlier work, probably composed c. 1812, although, according to Thomas Heck, it “may have been conceived as entertainment for the delegates to the Congress of Vienna in 1814.” Cohen and Ein-Habar interpreted this four-movement concerto with enthusiasm, extraordinary technique and understanding, eliciting wholehearted applause from the audience. The two beautiful guitar-flute duets showed off the outstanding talents of the two musicians. Ein-Habar obtained an impeccably pure sound from his flute that blended admirably with Cohen’s skill on the guitar.
In between the two Giuliani opuses, Liat Cohen performed works by Brazilian composers. She played the Villa-Lobos’s, Étude No. 8 in C Sharp Minor, and Prelude No. 2 in E Major, with fantasy and spontaneity, displaying a technical dexterity that delighted the audience. In Zequinha de Abreu’s Tico-Tico no Fubá (Sparrow in the cornmeal) the guitarist confirmed her skill; she regaled the audience with some magnificent playing and earned many encomiums from the appreciative public.
Prior to the concert I had the chance to talk to these two remarkable performers who expressed their delight at having been invited to perform in Malta and expressed their wish to return. With Ein-Habar we reminisced about the highly successful Renee Fleming/Joseph Calleya concert in Jerusalem in July 2011 when he was chair flutist of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Zubin Mehta.
The Executive President and Council of Din l-Art Ħelwa merit praise for the excellent organization, including the very informative programme notes.