James Galway | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

James Galway 

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JAMES GALWAY

James Galway is to the flute what Itzhak Perlman is to the violin or Yo-Yo Ma is to the cello. Though other flutists, notably the suave, intellectual Jean-Pierre Rampal, have also won international acclaim and released best-selling CDs, the avuncular, Irish-born Galway is synonymous with the instrument in the public mind. Back in 1975 he was a principal in the Berlin Philharmonic, but he took a calculated risk and embarked on a solo career--and since then he's transformed himself into a crossover sensation, playing just about everything under the sun, from Bach to Debussy to Japanese melodies to Celtic folk tunes to Elton John to John Corigliano's Pied Piper Fantasy, which was written with Galway in mind. Most important, he's steadily commissioned new works for flute, bolstering its relatively thin solo repertoire. Galway's charisma is indisputable--even though he often plays a gold-plated flute inlaid with diamonds, he still comes across as approachable and down-to-earth. But the exuberance that has endeared him to concertgoers isn't always appropriate; he's sometimes too assertive for the delicate moments in a Mozart piece, for example, and his effusive warmth has spoiled some of the astringent 20th-century works he's recorded. At this concert, however, Galway will be teamed up with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and his young wife and protege, Jeanne, in a piece that's perfect for his agile virtuosity: an obscure double flute concerto filled with flamboyant solo passages and fiery duets, written in the late 1700s by prolific Italian opera composer Domenico Cimarosa. Also on the program are Mozart's Flute Concerto no. 2 and Elgar's underrated Symphony no. 1; the conductor for the evening will be Donald Runnicles, the music director of the San Francisco Opera. Friday, 8 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park; 847-266-5100. TED SHEN

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