James Galway at Christmas * * *
at Symphony Hall
Review by John Gough
Heart-warming fare from Galway James Galway’s wide popularity must make programme planning difficult if he is to appeal to all the wings of his broad constituency, and this concert was a slightly schizophrenic mixture of Mozart and Christmas.
The London Mozart Players, liberally sprinkled with well-known names, were the experienced band, and started proceedings with the first movement of Eine kleine Nachtmusik, conducted by Galway. Mozart’s Second Flute Concerto, directed "from the flute" followed; this was an enjoyable performance, although the somewhat exotic cadenzas struck a stylistically jarring note, they certainly gave the soloist every opportunity to show his remarkable variety of articulation and sonorous bottom notes.
The Magic Flutes was an ingenious jeu d’esprit commissioned from David Overton for Sir James and his wife the flautist, Lady Jeanne Galway and consisting entirely of themes by Mozart arranged into a three movement symphony for two solo flutes and orchestra.
Galway introduced the piece by offering a weekend in Belfast for anyone who identified all the Mozart excerpts – (so far unclaimed). After the fun of hearing well-loved themes metamorphosing one into another, the work proved to be more than a travelogue through Mozart’s greatest hits but rather a highly diverting tribute.
An overlong second half saw the angelic voices of the City of Birmingham Youth Chorus with their crisp articulation and bright tone bringing a seasonal lump to the throat at times, and the Flutewise flute choir, although visually very striking (how often does one see 50 flutes gathered in one place?), made one regret the missed opportunity to give them anything very interesting to play.
Musical indigestion apart, this was a heart-warming family concert, performed with finesse and gusto.