There are great performers, and then there are legendary performers. Flutist Sir James Galway ranks easily in the legendary category. Galway will perform with the Spokane Symphony on Saturday at The Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox.
His wife and duet partner, Lady Jeanne Galway, had been scheduled to join him, but she is unable to perform because of a pinched nerve in her back.
Music Director Eckart Preu will conduct a program that features Galway in Mozart’s Concerto No. 2. It also had included duet pieces for Galway and his wife, but that portion of the program was being revised at press time.
Orchestral works on the program include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 and Greig’s “Holberg” Suite.
Galway, born in Belfast, is approaching his 70th birthday. With more than 60 recordings and sales of over 30 million, he is the iconic flutist of our time.
In addition to his huge success on the concert stage and in recordings, he has received many state and professional accolades. Queen Elizabeth awarded him the Order of the British Empire in 1977 and made him a knight in 2001.
“My grandfather was a flutist, and he taught my dad and my Uncle Joe,” Galway said in a telephone interview. “And my uncle taught me. So the flute does run in the family, you see.”
Galway left Belfast to become a scholarship student at London’s Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School, and moved on to the Paris Conservatoire.
“I was lucky to have had great teaching in London before going to (study with) Gaston Crunelle in Paris,” Galway said. “He had a great class with extremely high standards. When you stood up to play in front of your fellow students, it was like a big, big test.”
Galway recently returned to Paris as a guest professor.
“It was my second time this season, something unusual for them,” he says. “It is quite different than when I was there as as student in 1961. The buildings are all restored or new.
“My teacher, Crunelle, smoked all the time, and when he was through with a cigarette, he just threw it behind the radiator. When they took out that radiator to restore the room, they found a great cake of cigarette butts.”
After finishing at the Conservatoire, Galway returned to London and played in practically all of the city’s numerous orchestras. Then he was appointed principal flute in the Berlin Philharmonic under Herbert von Karajan.
“What I learned from playing in orchestras under who knows how many conductors,” he says, “was how to help them in what they’re doing when you’re a soloist. Young people who have not had that kind of orchestra experience just depend on the conductor to make everything go right.”
After six years at the Berlin Philharmonic, Galway opted for the risky career as a solo flutist (not flautist, he insists). Following Jean Pierre Rampal (with whom he studied privately), Galway became King of the Flute.
“Giving concerts is great, but I’ve really come to love teaching,” he said. “As I’ve grown older, the joy of traveling is not so much as it once was.
“I have many good relationships with schools and conservatories. And I am exploring ways to reach students through the Internet on thegalwaynetwork.com.”
It was though teaching Galway met his future wife.
“Julius Baker, the principal flute of the New York Philharmonic, invited me to work with one of his master classes, and one of the students was this girl from Long Island,” he recalled.
After a six-year courtship involving deliveries of prized Swiss chocolates, champagne and caviar, along with flute duets, Jeanne Cinnante became Mrs. Galway and, for a time, gave up playing the flute.
Now she performs as a soloist; with her chamber music group, the Zephyr Trio; and with her husband in concerts.
The couple live in a village in Switzerland above Lake Lucerne, across from the home once owned by Rachmaninoff. They begin the day with flute duets, and end the day with some wine from Galway’s considerable cellar.
“Oh, I have close to 1,000 bottles laid away including quite a lot of my favorite Bordeaux,” Galway said.
In addition to his wife and his wine, Galway is proud of the numerous compositions written for him by composers throughout the world, including such Americans as John Corigliano, William Bolcolm, Lowell Lieberman and New York Philharmonic conductor Lorin Maazel.
“Lorin’s actually written two concertos for me,” Galway said. “The last one is really funny. He wrote it after spending a month in Ireland, researching music in the pubs. I think he must have gone to quite a lot of pubs … it’s a wonderful piece.”
Galway is also proud of his latest recording on the DG label, “O’Reilly Street.” It is a two-time Grammy-nominated crossover album with the Cuban trained, Miami-based Afro-Cuban ensemble Tiempo Libre.
“Not many people know that the Irish General O’Reilly was a hero in the Cuban War of Independence,” Galway says.