A Complete Artist – Memorial Speech by Pierre Henri Xuereb

Joseph Vella, a complete artist, musician, a unique human being…

I had the great luck to meet Joseph when I was in my twenties, during my first visit to Malta and I remember telling everybody in France afterwards, that I met the equivalent of Pierre BOULEZ in France, in Malta.

Joseph’s involvement I in music was total: composing so much, conducting so much, spending time with other musicians so much, sharing so much… I have learned what it is to be a real Maltese, thanks to him and his generosity…

I always felt that to trust and have faith in each other, was the key to true relationships. We had with Joseph many discussions about art in general and music (of course). His look, when one spoke to him, will never be forgotten by all people who have been close to him: sincere, deep… always wanting to share and communicate.

I learned from Joseph to stay as simple as possible in the relations with others. To be a real professional should never make you pretentious. The real work should always be inside yourself without waiting anything from other people. To give is more important than to receive, like in a loving relationship.

We were together in France several times, performing his music, introducing his works to new audiences. In August 2011, his Lament for Strings (Op 103) strings was performed in Uzes in the Jardins de l ‘Eveche, receiving excellent reviews in important journals like “Midi Libre”.

In April 2015, Joseph also acted as composer-in-residence during the “Printemps de la Musique” festival in Saint Dizier, in which several of his works were also played. These included “Duo Concertante” (Op. 91), “Monologo” (Op 32), “Segments” (Op 94) and “3 Danze Antiche con Preludio” (Op 98). The highlight was of course the world premiere of his “Sighs and Whispers” (Op 123) for Alto Flute and Harp. The piece was interpreted by well known French conductor/flutist Patrick Gallois, while on the harp there was also very well known harpist Fabrice Pierre.

Joseph presented his works on stage usually before his pieces were performed, and it was always a joy to have him advise us while rehearsing his works. In some pieces, young talented musicians were involved in the performing sessions, Saint Dizier being also an Academy.

I loved the way his music was received: always a real interest, because his music always comes from the heart. His music for viola, which I had the joy to premiere in Lisbon, Gulbenkian Foundation -and in the Victoria International Festival in Gozo- is from two different periods; Although the styles are obviously different, one feels the same warmth, depth and joy- joy to share a beautiful personal artistic world with the performers and the public.

My Maltese origins (on both sides -mother and father- Bezzina and Xuereb) always bring me back often to both islands with the same expectations of peace, warmth and beauty.

I miss him, we miss him.


Pierre-Henri Xuereb is a French viola specialist of Maltese descent. He was a student of Serge Collot at the Paris Conservatory until he furthered his studies in the US at both the Julliard School and the Boston University.

Since 1989 he has taught viola at the Paris Conservatory, France, and also teaches at the Royal Conservatory of Liège, Belgium. He specialises in contemporary classical music.