Irkejjen / Corners (2015). Valletta is renowned for its history and imposing architecture, but the spirit of the City depends on its residents. This work for piano four-hand explores different (and often unknown) landscapes within the City. The work is in 4 movements, each describing a different location in the City. The four movements are as follows:

Irkejjen

I. Nix Mangiare

This is the name given to the steps which lead the traveller from Victoria Gate into the City Centre. In the days when the harbour was a busy mercantile and military port, these steps were full of beggars asking for alms, chanting ‘Nix Mangiare’. The phrase itself is made up of ‘nix’ (an invented word for ‘no’) and the Italian verb ‘mangiare’ (to eat). The music itself builds up tension as the chanting of the beggars builds up towards the finale.

II. Pjazza Reġina

Pjazza Reġina (literally Queen’s Square) is the name of one of the City’s central squares and full of popular cafès. The marble statue of Queen Victoria gives the square its name. Unfortunately, the presence of food and the convenient monument to Queen Vic is ideal for pigeons which conglomerate in great numbers in the square, much to the detriment of the cafès’ customers. This stately Minuet is soon interrupted by these invaders, forcing the music to end hastily!

III. Il-Biċċerija

Il-Biċċerija (The Abattoir) lies in the lower end of Valletta, and served as the City’s slaughterhouse for many centuries. This dilapidated building is earmarked for re-development, but the area has an eerie aura to it. A persistent melodic fragment is heard over a changing harmonic framework, never quite finding resolution.

IV – Dijuballi

Dijuballi is the name of a particular quarter at the lower end of Valletta, renowned mostly for being the wilder part of the City. The name’s exact origin is not known, but the most likely explanation is that it’s corruption of the phrase ‘due balli’ referring to the residences of two Bailiffs of the Order in the area. The music is vibrant and energetic, reflecting the spirit of Beltin (the City’s residents). The strong rhythms and polytonal harmonies drive the music forward to an abrupt climax.

This work was commissioned by the Grima-Gialanze Duo, which is made up of pianists Gisele Grima & Erika Gialanze. It was premiered at the Victoria International Arts Festival on 21st June 2015, Aula Mgr G Farrugia, Victoria, Gozo.

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