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James Galway – My Magic Flute
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra in C major, K. 299 (297c) (1778):
Allegro (Cadenza: Carl Reinecke) [11:00]; Andantino (Cadenza: John Thomas) [9:31]; Rondeau: Allegro (Cadenza: Carl Reinecke) [8:50];
Andante from Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467 (for Flute, Harp and Orchestra, arranged by Andreas N. Tarkmann) (1785) [6:18];
Theme and Variations (Andante grazioso) from Piano Sonata in A major, K. 331 (300i) (1781-3) (for Flute, Harp and Orchestra, arranged by Andreas N. Tarkmann) [6:43];
“Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben” (Tempo di Menuetto grazioso) from Zaide, act I, scene 3, K. 344 (366b) (1779-80) (for Flute and Orchestra, arranged by Matthias Spindler) [5:44];
The Magic Flutes, for two Flutes and Orchestra (A journey through the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, devised and freely arranged for two solo flutes and orchestra for James and Jeanne Galway by David Overton):
Adagio – Allegro con brio [9:18]; Minuet [5:27]; Allegro [7:26];
Rondo alla turca from Piano Sonata in A major, K. 331 (300i) (1781-3) (for two Flutes and Orchestra, arranged for James and Jeanne Galway by David Overton) [3:17]
Lady Jeanne Galway (flute), Catrin Finch (harp),
Sinfonia Varsovia/Sir James Galway (flute and conductor)
rec. Polish Radio, Witold Lutoslawski Studio, Warsaw, January 2006
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 00289 477 6233 [73:46]

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.

James 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.

Catrin 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.

For 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.

David 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 played.

Galway 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-filled, 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?

Göran Forsling


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