A hush descended upon the audience at Hill Auditorium as the stage doors swung open Saturday night, revealing a knight with his shining flute in hand. World-renowned artist, Sir James Galway, was, to say the least, comfortable on stage Saturday night— something expected from a man who has performed for such notables as President Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana and Pope John Paul II.
Galway, a multi-platinum selling flutist, began the evening with Francis Poulenc’s Sonata for Flute and Piano, which Galway likened to “a stay in a hotel”; the fast paced, high-pitched melody created the bustling, overwhelmed atmosphere. The opening melody of the Allegro Malinconico was analogous to the familiar “Hello, how are you?” catchphrase of hotel employees. The sonata continued with abrupt shifts of both rhythm and mood, including a cheery “walk in F major” melody appearing in a later movement.
The performance continued with a selection of Claude Debussy compositions. Galway captured the true essence of the French composer’s style, attaching vivid romantic imagery to the melodious arrangement. One of Debussy’s most famous works, Clair de Lune, was of special significance to Galway. “It was one of the first pieces I learned to play,” he said.
As the evening continued, Galway went to “fetch her Ladyship,” his wife, Lady Jeanne Galway. Then with a formal bow to one another, the pair began the Hungarian Fantasy for Two Flutes and Piano, Op. 35. The duet featured a bouncing melody with rhythmic runs that switched between them as though the two were dancing rather than playing.
Upon the completion of the performance, Galway returned to the stage with three popular encore performances. With the aid of his wife, Galway performed the famous Mozart duet, Rondo Alla Turca, which he cleverly mentioned “was originally commissioned for two flutes and a piano.” Galway, born in Belfast, proudly displayed his Irish roots with the famous hymnal “Danny Boy,” bringing tears to eyes of many audience members with his serene tone. The atmosphere was drastically brightened, however, with “58 seconds in A minor,” more readily known as the delightful Flight of the Bumblebee, which Galway added winged imagery to with the use of his flutter tongue.
With Galway’s complete mastery of classical flute and its repertoire, audience members were truly treated by a musical knight.