Karl Fiorini's International Spring Orchestra Festival, in its tenth season, is a bold Maltese initiative, combining high-profile orchestral events with chamber music evenings, solo recitals and a Rising Stars platform.
Founded in 2012, the Camilleri-Lucini Duo is a little gem, the brainchild of Fiorella Camilleri, piccolo and second flute of the Malta Philharmonic, and the guitarist Luca Lucini. They make a sensually blended sound, Camilleri's gold flute, dark in the lower register, piercingly clear without ever losing quality in the upper, offset by the mellow warmth of Lucini's Portuguese guitar.
Technically impeccable, scarcely a fret buzz to be heard, compelling in his range of colour, dynamics (a pianississimo hard to believe) and effects (tambora, pizzicato, slides, vibrato), Lucini shaped each number exquisitely, taking time to dream veiled beginnings, reflective endings, and aching cadences of thespian flow and pacing. Gifted such a framework, Camilleri soared, investing each melody with eloquence, every note, tongued scale and finely-graced ornament placed with cultured grammar and phrasing, and an evenness of tone and rising and falling hairpins that spoke volumes for her aristocratically bred imagination. Both artists played off the other, teasing out rhythms and rubato, sharing risks and climaxes. Their grace and perfection exceeded expectations.
Showcasing a generous 70-minute set – from Granados's derivative Valsos poéticos (1894), originally for piano, to Piazzolla's definitive Histoire du Tango (1986) – the programme addressed dance and song through an artful tapestry of images and reminiscences journeying from Vienna and Paris to bordello, cafe, nightclub and tomorrow's Buenos Aires. En route, Alan Thomas's intricate but idiomatically effective Balkan Songbook arrangements (2012) made for some exotically nuanced stopovers, variously nostalgic, vigorous, Eastern European, Hispanic flamenco in mood.
For much of the time Camilleri and Lucini focussed on the music before them. But then, eyes locking, they'd half smile … and sparks would fly. Now and again there'd be flashes of charmed theatre – Lucini rising full height to flourish off the last chord of Histoire, Fiorella gazing up in demure tango pose. The sort of concert when nothing goes wrong – in which the music-making aspires to the superlative, with purity of delivery and sincerity of intention at a premium.