James Galway

My Magic Flute

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This disc is über-flutist James Galway's appreciation of Mozart. Quoted in the liner notes, Galway comes up with a novel take on the classic conundrum of how Mozart could have written so beautifully for the flute even as he stated in letters that he despised the instrument. Mozart, Galway theorizes, was under stress owing to his problematic attempt to conquer Paris musically, his troubled relationship with soprano Aloysia Weber, and other factors, and he took it out on the flute. Could be! At any rate, Galway approaches Mozart from his usual crossover perspective. Forming the centerpiece of the second half of the program is a medley of Mozart tunes called The Magic Flutes, performed by James with his wife, Jeanne Galway. It's the kind of potpourri that a star of the instrument might have played on tour in the nineteenth century, and it's a lot of fun, with tunes following rapid-fire upon one another as in the old Hooked on Classics albums. Arranger David Overton uses the flutes where it makes melodic sense to do so, and the piece plays to Galway's greatest strength -- his ability to produce a lively, sparkling tune. Overton's arrangement of the Rondo alla turca movement from the Piano Sonata in A major, K. 331, is also inventive, substituting rapid flute filigree from the Galways for the rhythmic accents of the piano work. In the first half of the program, where Galway is paired not with his wife but with harpist Catrin Finch, the results are not so good. Galway, as conductor, achieves an excellent balance among himself, Finch, and the players of Poland's Sinfonia Varsovia, but he commits the common error of laying too much weight on the Concerto for flute, harp, and orchestra, K. 299 -- the charm of that piece lies in how it combines a profusion of melody with an almost gossamer quality, and setting oneself forward by taking liberties with the tempo, as Galway does, breaks the spell. The arrangements of other Mozart standards that follow are less idiomatic than those by Overton, although Galway does well with a lyrical "Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben," from the incomplete opera Zaide. Some editorial errors (there are two track 10s in the tracklist, and there is no such newspaper as the Dallas Star-Telegram) attest to a quick-release attitude that also manifests itself in so-so sound. Bottom line: Galway fans will enjoy this fresh manifestation of his crowd-pleasing ways.

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