Home  Reviews  Articles  Calendar  Presenters  Add Event     
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
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.