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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.