Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
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
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
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.