Born in the heart of Gozo’s capital, Victoria on 9 January 1942, Joseph Vella is considered to be the leading and internationally most widely played Maltese contemporary composer. His music has been regularly performed in prestigious cities/venues across the world (New York, St Petersburg, Dubai etc) besides featuring on popular TV channels like ARTE. Internationally acclaimed tenor Joseph Calleja, who made his operatic debut with Maestro Vella at the Astra Theatre, paid a glowing tribute to Maestro Vella, describing the latter as one of Malta`s most beloved sons, having musical talent at par with the world`s best composers.
He started composing at a young age, under the guidance of his father, Mro. Ġanni Vella. Still a student at the Gozo Lyceum, he composed Innu lil Għawdex, lyrics by Ġorġ Pisani. Professor Vella’s official catalogue of works reaches 155 opuses (besides an additional 150 minor works), ranging from chamber, choral and sacred works to major symphonic works, concertos and band marches. His last official work – Op. 155 – is the long-awaited opera Valeriana, which was left unfinished upon his passing but later completed by one of his students.
As a conductor, Vella has a wide repertoire and was invited to collaborate with manyorchestras (Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra, Prometheus Symphony Orchestra of New York, Orquestra Nacional do Porto, Orchestra “Goffredo Petrassi” di Roma, “Gli Armonici” Palermo, The Yamaha Foundation Symphony Orchestra etc.) His sensitivity and instinctive insights as a conductor have been acknowledged by various artists:- world famous soprano Cecilia Gasdia remarked that “Joseph Vella is one of the few conductors I know with whom I would be quite willing to sing a whole opera without even one rehearsal !”. During his long and fruitful association with the Malta Choral Society, he also introduced to Malta some of the most outstanding choral works from the traditional and contemporary repertoire: Mozart’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Choral Symphony, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Britten’s Ballad of Heros, Bruckner’s Te Deum and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms.
In Gozo, Professor Vella was the Musical Director of the La Stella Philharmonic Society and the Astra Theatre for nearly fifty years, where he conducted a considerable number of operas, whilst also serving as maestro di cappella of St George’s Basilica for which he composed the ever popular Mass in D Op. 20. From its inception, he was also the Artistic Director of the Victoria International Arts Festival (VIAF).
Thanks to his pioneering work and interest in early Maltese music, which he edited, performed and promoted both locally and abroad, Vella has also rightly been accredited as the father of the Maltese revival movement. Joseph Vella was also Professor of Music at the University of Malta, the first head and co-founder of Malta`s School of Music, and the first resident conductor of the National Orchestra in Malta.
Most of his works have been published on various media: www.josephvella.com.mt
by Alan and Nikki Vella
Photo Credits: Sam Cefai
Rebbieħa op. 45 – Sofia Symphony Orchestra conducted by Joseph Vella
Rapsodija Maltija op. 26 – Tatjana Chircop (Violin) & Natascha Chircop (piano)
Il-Kebbies tal-Fanali op. 18 – Lyrics by Anton Buttigieg, Miriam Cauchi (soprano) & Maria Frendo (piano)
Sarabanda op. 73 – Malta Philharmonic conducted by Joseph Vella
- “Life behind the baton” – timesofmalta.com (18/11/2012)
- “Internationally-famed Maestro Joseph Vella on Gozo’s cultural wealth” – guidememalta.com (21/02/2018)
- “Well-known Gozitan conductor Joseph Vella passes away” – Gozo.News (26/02/2018)
- “Renowned composer and conductor Joseph Vella dies” – maltatoday.com.mt (26/02/2018)
- “He had lots of energy and a heart of gold – Mro Joe Vella’s son” – tvmnews.mt (26/02/2018)
- AŻAD remembers Mro. Vella – josephvella.com.mt (11/05/2018)
- “Beyond the horizon” – timesofmalta.com (25/02/2019)
- “Mro Vella bust unveiled” – timesofmalta.com (17/03/2019)
- “Two Of Joseph Vella’s Oratorios To Feature During The Three Palaces Festival” – lovinmalta.com (19/10/2022)
- “VIAF 25th Anniversary in Honour of Mro Joseph Vella” – viaf.org.mt