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Chamber
EXTRAVAGANT FUSION OF STYLES AT CHRIS BOTTI BAND WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Jerry Dibble
Sunday, August 12, 2018
Trumpeter Chris Botti still performs in jazz venues including SF Jazz and The Blue Note, but now appears mostly in cavernous halls or on outdoor stages like the Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. He brought his unique road show to the packed Weill Hall August 12 in a concert of effusive e...
Chamber
SCHUBERT "MIT SCHLAG" AT VOM FESTIVAL MORNING CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
The spirit of 19th century Vienna was present July 29 on the final day of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival in the second half of July glittered with innovative programming and the new, old sound of original instruments played by musicians who love music with historic instruments. ...
Chamber
PASSIONATE BRAHMS-SCHOENBERG MUSIC CLOSES VOM FESTIVAL SUMMER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 29, 2018
An extraordinary program of chamber music by Brahms and Schoenberg attracted a capacity crowd to the Valley of the Moon Music Festival’s final concert July 29th in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. It opened with a richly expressive reading by Festival Laureate violinist Rachell Wong and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur...
Chamber
PRAGUE AND VIENNA PALACE GEMS HIGHLIGHT VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, July 28, 2018
The remarkable Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival presented a concert called “Kinsky Palace” July 28 on their final Festival weekend in Sonoma’s Hanna Center. Two well-known treasures and one lesser gem were programmed. Starting the afternoon offerings were violinist Monica Huggett and Fest...
Chamber
INNOVATIVE CHAMBER WORKS IN HANNA CENTER CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, July 22, 2018
The Valley of the Moon Music Festival presented a July 22 concert featuring three giants: Haydn, Schubert and Schumann, composers who altered music of their time with creative innovations and artistic vision. In the fourth season the Festival’s theme this year is “Vienna in Transition”, and VOM Fes...
Chamber
VIENNA INSPIRATION FOR VOM FESTIVAL PROGRAM AT HANNA CENTER
by Nicki Bell
Saturday, July 21, 2018
A music-loving audience filled Sonoma’s Hanna Center Auditorium July 21 to begin a record weekend of three concerts, produced by the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. The Festival’s theme this summer is “Venice in Transition – From the Enlightenment to the Dawn of Modernism” Prior to Saturday’s m...
Chamber
VANHAL QUARTET AT VOM FESTIVAL DISCOVERY AT HANNA CENTER
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 15, 2018
A near-capacity crowd of 220 filled the Sonoma Hanna Boys Center Auditorium July 15 for the opening concert of the fourth Valley of the Moon Music Festival. This Festival presents gems of the Classical and early Romantic periods performed on instruments of the composer’s era, which presents a few ch...
Opera
SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018
The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our...
Symphony
!PURA VIDA! A SONIC TRIUMPH FOR SO CO PHIL IN THRILLING COSTA RICA TOUR CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Long anticipated events, such as a great sporting game, gourmet feast, holiday trip or a concert, occasionally fall way short of expectations. The results don’t measure to expectations. With the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Costa Rica concert June 19, the performance exceeded any heated or tenuou...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
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.