You might be forgiven for thinking that an ensemble dedicated to the study and authentic performance of renaissance and baroque music would be made up of stiff academics. In the case of the Valletta International Baroque Ensemble, however, nothing could be further from the truth. The group’s acronym – VIBE – is remarkably appropriate. The ensemble brings together leading musicians who share an infectious enthusiasm for making music, and who seek to breathe life into gems of early music as if the ink were still fresh on the score.
The idea of creating VIBE was born roughly ten 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 a great deal of work) later, to the birth of the Valletta International Baroque Ensemble, a group committed to the historically informed performance of renaissance to early baroque music on original instruments. The memorable inaugural concert in December 2012, featured the participation of Dame Emma Kirkby – as “godmothers” go, one could not wish for anyone better! This was just a few weeks before the first edition of the Valletta International Baroque Festival, where VIBE was (and still is) the resident ensemble.
Over the past five years, VIBE has performed several exciting concerts with a renaissance and baroque repertoire both in Malta and abroad, with an emphasis on the music of Maltese composers such as Abos, Balzano and Mikel’ Angelo Vella and compositions found at the Mdina Cathedral archives. These events have seen the group work and perform alongside world-class authorities in the field, including violinists Catherine Martin, cellist Albert Brüggen, trumpet player Richard Thomas, harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, sackbut expert Susan Addison and theroboists David Miller and Eligio Quinteiro, as well as brilliant singers such as Eamonn Dougan and members of the choir The Sixteen.
Lately, VIBE has also been working with contemporary Maltese composers to premiere works which revive baroque musical forms, such as Alexander Vella Gregory’s Concerto Grosso. This dialogue between old and new is at the heart of the VIBE project and complements its mission to transmit a passion for early music to contemporary audiences.