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James Galway in Green

Being in love with a flutist means going to any concert performed by James Galway. The venerable Irish flutist, last in the area in 2008, is now in his 70s. His repertory is pretty close to pops concert-level at this point: the current Legacy Tour is devoted to music that Galway played and cherished through the course of his long career. As he showed at his St. Patrick's Day concert on Sunday afternoon in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, presented by Washington Performing Arts Society, he still has it: a polished tone, agile hands, and enough charm and wit to have a large audience of all ages eating out of his hands.

The serious part of the program was the first piece, the rather beautiful D major flute quartet, K. 285, supported by the young chamber musicians who are accompanying Galway on this tour, clearly subservient to their soloist musically but providing him a pretty envelope. Fast runs, silvery tone, remarkable breath support and control -- most everything was in place, with the exception of a few intonation troubles and the occasional overblow, shortcomings that, if anything, just reveal a human side to an otherwise immaculate style. Galway's misty low range, the most striking register on the instrument, was showcased in an arrangement of Debussy's Clair de Lune, with plenty of fireworks to show off in an arrangement of themes from Bizet's Carmen by François Borne (1840–1920), a French flutist in the orchestra at the Grand Théatre de Bordeaux. Galway and his flutist wife, Jeanne Galway, stood in brilliantly for the flutist brother Franz and Karl Doppler, in their dazzling fantasy on themes from Verdi's Rigoletto, with its two equal parts lined up and unified so well.

Other Reviews:

Stephen Brookes, At Kennedy Center, a charming James Galway explores his Irish roots (Washington Post, March 19)
Two happy little dance tunes, Gossec's Tambourin and Marais's Le Basque, were special to Galway because he played them in his youth, and they had a carefree, breezy quality. While Belfast composer Hamilton Harty's In Ireland Fantasy was largely forgettable (two parts whimsy, one part weepy nostalgia), David Overton's arrangements of Irish folk songs were more effective, especially She Moved Through the Fair, an extremely simple setting of a gorgeous tune that was sure to set all Irish eyes weeping. Claude Bolling's Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano is a favorite of Mrs. Ionarts, and the "Irlandaise" movement, supplemented by some jazzy double bass, featured some nice additions to the score from Galway. Henry Mancini was introduced to the penny whistle by Galway, whose acrobatics on this most rudimentary of instruments, are always a thrill, heard again in the Pennywhistle Jig and the famous Baby Elephant Walk, completed here by enthusiastic audience participation. The encores began with the one we most wanted to hear, Danny Boy, which Galway always says he considers "like a prayer," performed here in a pleasingly simple arrangement with lush strings.

The next concert in the WPAS series will feature baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky and pianist Ivari Ilja (March 20, 8 pm), in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

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