Although this is yet another disc among the myriad releases to
cash in on Mozart anniversary year, the composer’s name is absent
from both the front cover and the spine of the jewel case. Instead
the Galways and Catrin Finch figure. At first this makes one believe
that it is a feature disc for the artists – and in a way it is.
The only original Mozart music is the concerto for flute and harp,
the rest are arrangements and, in one case, a free composition,
based on Mozart tunes – “a journey through the works of …” it
is subtitled in the booklet. Rhapsody, medley, cavalcade might
also be suitable names.
Galway – Sir James today – is without doubt the most famous
flautist in the world and has been for almost three decades.
It was in 1965 that he left his post as principal flute of
the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra to pursue a solo career.
I happened to hear him the following year in Dubrovnik, when
he was still fairly unknown. I was immediately enchanted by
his golden tone and fabulous technique, qualities that he
has retained and that are in evidence on the present disc.
I have a feeling though that he has to work harder today to
produce the tone and it is not always as spotlessly golden
as it once was. The characteristic “romantic” vibrato is still
there and this is something that some of his detractors have
zeroed in on, especially in baroque and classicist repertoire.
I am not that puritanical and I greatly admired his playing
of the B minor suite by Bach back in 1976. Hearing him in
the concerto for flute and harp, with the young Welsh harpist
Catrin Finch playing just as well as Marisa Robles did in
two earlier versions with Galway, he has softened a bit. Yet
this is still a worthy account of this often played and recorded
work where the slow movement is one of those desert island
pieces. In the last resort I prefer the leaner playing of
Liza Beznosiuk on a well-nigh twenty-year-old recording with
Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music on period
instruments. Non-specialists will probably be just as satisfied
with the plusher sonorities on this well engineered disc.
Finch also appears in two of the arrangements. The first is
the Andante movement from piano concerto No. 21, made
famous almost forty years ago through Bo Widerberg’s film
Elvira Madigan. The arrangement is agreeable enough
and will make perfect background music of the kind that is
fully listenable when the conversation partner becomes too
dull. More interesting and full of life is the Andante
grazioso from the piano sonata in A major, which actually
sounds like an original composition. In the Zaide aria
with its atmospheric orchestral accompaniment, Sir James’s
flute sings deliciously. This lullaby is another nice example
of light music expertly played. Knowing the original one still
misses the soprano voice with its wider dynamic scope.
Sir James and Lady Jeanne, David Overton has concocted a three
movement suite of Mozart themes. These are skilfully woven
together and consist of a great number of melodies, sometimes
only a few bars before the next snippet appears. Since the
title is The Magic Flutes there are recurring references
to Die Zauberflöte, but the whole work (the full composition
has a fourth movement) is littered with tunes from all strands
of Mozart’s oeuvre. It should be a nice basis for a musical
quiz when some knowledgeable friends gather around a hot stew
and a cask of red wine. The playing is beyond reproach and
the whole is greatly entertaining.
Overton has also arranged the final movement from the A major
sonata, the well-known Rondo alla turca, as a kind
of encore piece for the Galways. Not long ago I reviewed a
disc where this and other Mozart pieces were arranged for
mandolin and guitar. Christian Zacharias recorded the full
sonata with a tambourine added for the final pages. Mozart
might have approved of them all, as long as they were well
has the double task of playing and conducting but the Sinfonia
Varsovia, which first came to notice, I believe, through their
collaboration with Yehudi Menuhin, are well versed is this
kind of repertoire and could manage perfectly on their own.
well-played and with good liner notes by Nick Kimberley this is
a disc that should attract many music-lovers. It may not be an
essential buy but it is definitely “Music for Pleasure” – and
shouldn’t music always be so?