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The original inspiration for the Maltese Islands Suite came from two of my piano students, Ralph and Reuben Jones, whose mother is Maltese, and who lent me some books about the island, where I’ve now spent two holidays The four-movement suite was therefore initially intended for the younger pianist. However, rather like Schumann’s Kinderszenen, advanced players may hopefully find something to enjoy here, too.
Just before Christmas, 2004, I was delighted to receive an email from Sharon Gauci (see photo), of Senglea, Malta, who had seen the suite whilst browsing the former SibeliusMusic, and asked whether she could give the world premiere of the work on Malta itself! It goes without saying that I immediately got back to say how thrilled I would be, if this were to happen, and I’ve subsequently dedicated the Maltese Islands Suite to Sharon (or ’Shar’, to her friends!). Sharon has since moved to the UK, where she is now teaching.
Shepherd’s Dance (Iz-Zifna tar-Rghajja)
The opening short improvisatory section – and the piece’s subtitle – should give a good idea that while Malta is a Mediterranean island not far from Sicily, its origins, and indeed language, both spoken and musical, have quite a lot in common with Arabic. The dance section again uses the 3+3+2 rhythm pattern, but now in an urgent fashion, exotic touches added by the melodic use of the harmonic minor scale, with its decidedly non-Western interval of the augmented second! Hopefully it rounds the Maltese Islands Suite off with some aplomb!
The whole Suite is also available from Score Exchange at a discounted price.
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Reviews of Shepherd’s Dance [Iz-Zifna tar-Rghajja] (’Maltese Islands Suite’)
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