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Recital
HOME RECITAL BACH COMPLETES HOLIDAY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 30, 2017
The just closing 2017 year was a calamity for many, but locally in music there were joys galore, and it was fitting Dec. 30 have the balm of two Bach’s violin sonatas in a private Guerneville home recital hosted by the eminent musician Sonia Tubridy. Violinist Richard Heinberg joined Ms. Tubridy in...
Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE WITH SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Mastercard Performance Series / Friday, March 18, 2016
James Galway and Jeanne Galway, flute. Michael McHale, piano; the Galway Chamber Players

Flutist James Galway

INSOUCIANCE AND VIRTUOSITY IN GALWAY'S BRILLIANT WEILL HALL CONCERT

by Mark Wardlaw
Friday, March 18, 2016

The man with the golden flute brought inimitable Irish charm and sterling musicianship March 18 to Weill Hall for a delightful concert experience. Sir James Galway, joined by flutist Lady Jeanne Galway and pianist Phillip Moll, enthralled an appreciative audience with a colorful array of musical morsels ranging from serious works to lighthearted fare, including one that required audience participation.

Mr. Galway’s musical journey is unique, and even at 76 it appears far from over. This is an artist who rose from working-class Belfast roots to the upper echelon of the flute world by landing jobs in the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, eventually winning the principal flute chair in the Berlin Philharmonic, one of the world’s great ensembles, when he was 29 years old. Very few musicians would walk away from so lofty a position, but Galway isn’t just any musician, and he left that orchestra after only six years. Even that august position proved to be an insufficient showcase for the eclecticism and showmanship that have made him one of the top instrumental artists in the world.

Mr. Galway’s impish wit and droll delivery signaled from the outset that this wasn’t going to be a perfunctory affair. It’s obvious that he places a high premium on bringing the audience into his world. He engages his audience in a genuine and down-to-earth way. This is seldom the case in classical music concert halls that all too often are steeped in formality and sterility.

The concert opened with “In Ireland Fantasy” by Hamilton Harty, and we were immediately reminded of why Galway is so revered. That sound! Galway produces one of the most luminous and instantly recognizable sounds in the wind-playing world. The quality and character of his tone is remarkably consistent through all three registers; even his rich low register projected easily over Weill’s concert piano at full lid. He also is able to conjure the softest entrances imaginable, with releases that are remarkably controlled and nuanced. His breath control is nothing short of astounding. Did I mention that he’s 76 years old?

Before launching into the two hour program’s second offering – Fauré’s dazzling and formidable “Fantasie,” Mr. Galway took the microphone, as he did before every piece, to give the audience some background and, of course, some of his trademark humor. He described this work as having “a virtuoso second part which I’m still struggling with…but don’t tell anybody at the Conservatory.” Phillip Moll, the flutist’s pianist for forty years, was stellar on this work, as he was all evening.

Next came a lovely arrangement of Debussy’s “Claire de Lune,” but first the artist explained that Democracy is important in music, especially in an orchestra. He hummed a few measures from Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” at its correct, breakneck speed. “The orchestra starts it there (at that tempo). Then it becomes this.” He hummed it again, this time much slower. Almost winking, he stated, “See, that’s Democracy.” He went on to offer how his programs also come together democratically. “It all happens in my office. My wife and secretary make the decisions, and then they tell me what I’m playing.”

Mr. Galway then was joined by Ms. Galway for Franz and Karl Doppler’s nimble arrangement “Rigoletto Fantasie for Two Flutes.” Their crisp ensemble and light-hearted interplay were charming and musically satisfying, with both flutists displaying abundant technical mastery. The artist finished the first half with his brilliant arrangement of music from Bizet’s “Carmen.”

The second half featured shorter and lighter works. Mr. Galway was very effective in the final song from David Overton’s “Three Irish Folk Songs” when he captured the unmistakable and mournful character of Uilleann pipes. In Howard Shore’s “Lord of the Rings” (arranged from the orchestral score by the composer) the flutist played the kind of music that is largely responsible for his spectacular worldwide popularity and success. Among his many gifts is his ability to play simple and straightforward music with sincerity, beauty and honesty. He never casually “tosses off” any piece of music. His supreme artistry is apparent at all times. He programs for the whole audience, and does so without any hint of pretense. The inclusion of Mancini’s “The Pink Panther, “ Pennywhistle Jig” and “Baby Elephant Walk” (the last two played on tin whistle) speak volumes about Mr. Galway’s philosophy of including something for everyone.

Ever the generous performer, Galway treated us to the encores. First he brought back his wife for a “new piece by Mozart, recently discovered on his fax machine” that turned out to be the well-known “Turkish March.” He then comically sifted through quite a few pages of photocopied music, arranged it carefully on his stand, and then proceeded to fumble his way through the performance. But it didn’t matter. The audience ate it up. Order was restored for the finale, a virtuosic arrangement of the folk tune “Carnival of Venice.” Mr. Galway was back to his usual phenomenal self, executing each of the dizzying variations as perhaps no one else can.

Finally there was the obligatory "Danny Boy," lovingly rendered despite the fact that the artist has played the tune countless times. The pianissimo "A" at the climax of the tune was perhaps the most sublime moment of the evening, and the final phrase lingered poignantly.