James Galway recital

James Galway, the flautist well known for making a lucrative career as a touring soloist, delighted the Beijing audience with an evening of impressionist and a pair of late-19th century Doppler arrangements. Beginning the evening was Faure’s Fantasie for Flute & Piano, Op. 79, which Galway had to restart twice due to nuances with his flute. Perhaps because of the restarts, a brief trip to the backstage in between to work on his flute, and a pause due to a poorly-timed cellphone ring, Galway seemed a little hesitant and not fully immersed in Faure’s buttery melodic arches. His delivery of Clair de Lune by Debussy was also problematic, sounding choppy and somewhat limping. His first Doppler, Andante & Rondo for Two Flutes & Piano, Op. 25, in which he shared the stage with his wife, Lady Galway, sounded a lot better. Sir Galway seemed very much at ease with his wife’s presence, and harmonically in control of the trio (with Michael McHale as the accompanying pianist) even as Lady Galway and McHale had respectively the bulk of the melodic and rhythmic lines. The second Doppler was the deliciously crafted Rigoletto Fantasy for Two Flutes, Op. 38. The exquisite arrangements on the Caro nome theme were marred by a dynamic imbalance that Lady Galway seemed desperate to correct. While her open embouchure produced a bigger, breathier sound, her air-stream was audible, with an especially annoying diffusion at the top notes.  The regular program ended with Francois Borne’s Carmen Fantasie, in which Galway seemed to have missed a few notes and looked more laborious than in complete control. A sublime rendition of Danny Boy as encore, paired with an expert control over the Irish tune’s pianissimo, partially redeemed the virtuoso, but left me wondering whether he has fully recovered from the physical and mental trauma of going through his arm injury a few years ago.

James Galway in Beijing.

James Galway in Beijing.

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