Galways bring musical charm to Frost Symphony’s Arsht program

By Inesa Gegprifti

Sir James Galway and Lady Jeanne Galway performed with THomas Sleeper and the Frost Symphony Orchestra Friday night at the Arsht Center.

Sir James Galway and Lady Jeanne Galway performed with Thomas Sleeper and the Frost Symphony Orchestra Friday night at the Arsht Center.

The Frost Symphony Orchestra conducted by Thomas Sleeper presented an evening at the Arsht Center that received multiple standing ovations Friday night. 

The headliners of the program, celebrated flutist Sir James Galway and his wife Lady Jeanne Galway, performed Mozart’s Flute Concerto in D major K. 314 and Cimarosa’s Concerto for Two Flutes and Orchestra in G major. 

After his appointment as principal flutist of the Berlin Philharmonic under the legendary Herbert von Karajan in 1969, Galway stayed for six seasons, leaving the  storied ensemble for an international solo career in 1975. 

Unlike most contemporary repertoire for the flute, which focuses on sonic experimentation  and technical challenges, both of Mozart’s flute concerti remain a barometer for the performer’s’ virtuosity, musicality, and stylistic awareness—their overall taste.

There is no doubt that Galway is a seasoned entertainer of brilliant musical skills. His interpretation of Mozart’s radiant composition showcased that. Little agogic inflections in the quick passages highlighted the melodic outline and swayed the pulse by at times creating an unsettling metric environment. His approach was always interesting and original, particularly in the Adagio non troppo where the blossoming long notes bled into graceful ornaments. The lighthearted, joyous character of the Rondo was delivered to great success and Galway’s galant showmanship even caused giggles of enjoyment among audience members.  

Reminiscent of a flamboyant coloratura and inspired by his own operas, Cimarosa’s Double Flute Concerto featured a delightful musical conversation. Interestingly, the husband-and-wife duo played with very different tone qualities–Sir James more focused and better projected while his wife’s solos were fuzzier with a looser vibrato. Nonetheless, they came together to present an energized and charismatic performance. 

A string of encores followed the concerti, featuring an arrangement of Mozart’s Turkish March, an Irish folk song, and a traditional celebratory Irish tune on the tin whistle. 

Throughout the first half, Thomas Sleeper displayed a high level of sensitivity and consideration to the light projecting capabilities of the flute as he enabled the orchestra to reach extremely soft dynamics. 

The evening closed with the Symphonie Fantastique, written by Héctor Berlioz in 1830. Described by Leonard Bernstein as “the first musical expedition into psychedelia,” this composition is a programmatic symphony attempting to musically render an extra-musical narrative. It tells the story of a young, creative artist who has poisoned himself with opium because of hopeless love. As the story unfolds in five episodes, the artist journeys through states of dreamy nostalgia, delirious vigor, intimate tenderness, brash outbursts, and cathartic release, all ending in his decapitation. 

This demanding composition is a tall order for any professional orchestra. In the hands of the young musicians of FSO under the baton of Sleeper, the opening of the symphony was somewhat tentative, but their performance progressively commanded more attention reaching an ecstatic climax in the last movement. 

Introduced in “Rêveries – Passions,” the idée fixe representing Berlioz’s object of love was played tenderly with well-rounded phrasing. (The woman who is believed to have inspired such outburst of passion is the actress Harriet Smithson, whose 1827 performance of Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet left a lasting impression on the composer.) Sleeper articulated the attacks of the closing chorale with clarity resulting in excellent projection of the harmonic changes. 

In “A Ball,” the charming waltz was saturated with gentle undertones provided by the harps. “Scene in the Country” created a world of spacious timelessness with its pastoral character. The woodwinds displayed good control of dynamics and overall tone quality. Antonio Urrutia’s English horn solo was expressive and the suspended phrases over the double timpani rolls layered a thunderous effect. Clarinetist Lee Siedner provided a rich palette of sounds with admirable breath control and elegant phrasing. Missing at times was the underlying angst in the musical tension of the back and forth between the strings and woodwinds. 

With blaring upsurges, “March to the Scaffold” brought the orchestra to full life and volume, highlighting the precision and projection of bassoonist Brian McKee and the full-bodied sonorities of the entire brass section, culminating in a powerful ending supported by a superb percussion section.  

The final movement, “Dream of the Witches’ Sabbath,” begins with eerie sounds in the violins accentuated by the cunning celli and basses. The initial Dies Irae statement was striking in the tubas and chimes. The canonic entrances of the strings after the French horn exclaims Dies Irae were well-placed and sustained a driving energy all the way to the roaring final chords. 



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Sat Oct 28, 2017
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