Classical and Jazz Clarinettist
The name of Freddie Mizzi is synonymous with virtuoso clarinet playing and also with swing Freddie style. Freddie Mizzi was Malta’s best known soloist and certainly the most versatile. He was equally at home playing jazz music or the great classics. He had been broadcasted frequently in Malta and abroad and often appeared on television. He was born in Valletta, on 12th October 1934, and had been a professional musician ever since his teens. Having first started out playing with the Jimmy Dowling Big Band. He introduced in Malta many old and new works written for the clarinet. At his prime he was widely regarded as one of the finest clarinet soloists in Europe
Freddie Mizzi started playing the clarinet at the age of 6, under the tutelage of his grandfather's brother, Vincent Mifsud, former sergeant major of the Militia. Later he studied under the tutelage of Maestro Joseph Abela Scolaro. In 1953 he joined the British Army where he benefitted greatly from the rigorous practice and long hours dedicated to the instrument. He obtained diplomas from London College of Music in 1967. He was a guest artist at the Belfast Art Festival which was broadcasted over the BBC. In October 1971, he was selected as one of the distinguished musicians to form part of the World Symphony Orchestra on tour in the United States of America, where he performed at New York City’s renowned Carnegie Hall, under the well-known conductor Arthur Fiedler. A year later, he performed two new works at the Wigmore Hall in London. In 1973, during Malta’s first International Arts Festival, he was soloist with the Salzburg String Quartet.
In 1977, he represented Malta at the European Arts Festival in Romania, also in that same year, he played at the Mozart Castle in Darmstadt, West Germany. Following this success, he was invited and performed in Mannheim in 1981. In March 1983 he performed at the London Barbican Centre. He has also entertained, with his impeccable playing, such personalities as the Queen and the Queen Mother of England, President Soires of Portugal and President Cossiga of Italy, amongst many others.
In June 1985 he was awarded “The Phoenicia International Cultural Award” by the President of the Republic of Malta for his services to music. In November 1985, he gave concerts at the Mediterranean Art Festival in France and Greece, while in March 1986 he gave concerts in Czechoslovakia’s Art Festival. In 1987 he was awarded the Malta Society of Arts Medal.
In 1989, Freddie Mizzi was appointed Professor of Clarinet with the internationally renowned Boosey and Hawkes Musical Instrument Co., where from time to time he gave lectures. In 1990, he was awarded the Golden Clarinet by Buffet and Boosey and Hawkes. The Golden Clarinet will be donated to the Mdina Cathedral Museum by personal request of Mro. Mizzi as a token of thanks to God for blessing him with such an illustrious career. He has recorded long-plays and compact discs, his latest being “Freddie Mizzi plays the Great Classics”. In 1995, he was awarded the Malta Music Award. Followed by in 1998 the Medal Qadi tar-Repubblika (MQR), which was awarded to him by the President and Government of Malta for incessant and distinguished service to his country.
Freddie has also performed with the Sinnhover String Quartet and the Accademia String Quartet.
In his home country, Freddie Mizzi founded the first clarinet choir and saxophone choir on the Maltese Islands. He was also responsible for the revival of big band music on the local scene. He was a talented teacher, having taught most of Malta’s top clarinet and saxophone players and he continued to teach till shortly before his death. His quartet was very popular and always in high demand. They entertained both locally and abroad. The members were Tony Fiteni (piano), Joe Cutajar (bass) and Martin Cini (drums). On one occasion they gave a highly acclaimed concert at the Mediterranean Conference Centre (MCC), Valletta, where they accompanied world renowned guitarist Kenny Burrell.
In his later years Freddie Mizzi had focused more on composing and teaching. His repertoire of original works include: Cello Adagio, Interlude, Adagio for Clarinet and Strings, Imagination, Clarinet Concerto, Fantasy for Orchestra, Orchestration of Verdi’s Rigoletto for Clarinet, Around the Orbits for String Quartet, Saxophone Trio and Rhapsodic Variations.
The acclaimed clarinettist David Campbell has called Freddie a ‘master of the instrument, equally at home playing jazz and the great classics’.
Freddie Mizzi and his Big Bands’ popularity rose throughout the years, especially thanks to the annual commissioning of the Grand Finale of the Valletta Historical Festival.
The Freddie Mizzi Big Band was formed in 1958 and gave its debut performance in October of the same year on the occasion of the British Forces Grand Ball held at the Vernon Club, Valletta. Since then, the band performed on special occasions on the Island, including the visit to Malta by H. R. H. the Duke of Edinburgh. The band also played on more than one occasion at San Anton Palace, the official residence of the President of the Republic of Malta, and for a number of years was the resident band at the Corinthia Palace Hotel and the Phoenicia Hotel. The band was made up of seventeen top class local musicians and it’s wide repertoire included music of great composers such as Glenn Miller, George Gershwin, F. Chopin, J. S. Bach, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Earle Hagen, Harry James, Jerome Kern, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Freddie Mercury, Barry White and many other famous composers.
Freddie married Maria Spiteri, who also was born in Valletta, in 1954 at St. Dominic's Church Valletta. Together they had 2 daughters: Madeline and Lora. Madeline is married to Tony Bugeja, a filigree artist, and they have 2 children: Andrew, a professional pianist, and Alison, a teacher. Lora is married to Vince Briffa, a professor at the University of Malta, they have a son, Luke, who is a professional percussionist. On the 6th of March 2020, at the age of 85, Freddie Mizzi passed away peacefully. He is loved and remembered by his children, his beloved grandchildren, his relatives, his colleagues in the musical and cultural fields and his many friends.
"It happens very rarely, but when it happens it's worth waiting for, that the instrument becomes part of your body."