Music review: James Galway, Leonard Slatkin and the L.A. Phil at Hollywood Bowl
It’s probably safe to say that Thursday was the first day anyone heard a vuvuzela played with a symphony orchestra. At least locally. At least at the Hollywood Bowl.It was during the raucous crowd section of Piston’s “The Incredible Flutist” Suite. A Los Angeles Philharmonic first violinist lifted up the notorious noise-maker — heard round the world at the summer World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa — and let out a roar.
But it was a gentle roar. Musicians’ ears are sensitive.Otherwise, the program was flute-themed, with James Galway as the soloist. The first half, however, was Galway-less. Leonard Slatkin opened the concert with Mozart’s “Magic Flute” Overture, continued with Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” and concluded with the Piston Suite.
The Mozart Overture was bright and sparkling. Principal flutist Catherine Ransom Karoly began Debussy’s Prelude with tender, limpid tones. Piston’s unjustly neglected Suite charmed with its bewitching “Tango of the Merchants Daughters,” not to mention the musicians’ yelps and hurrahs, the vuvuzela and the barking of a dog. Slaktin presided over all with a cool, masterly hand.
But everyone was waiting for Galway, and once he arrived, he pretty much dominated the affair. Wearing an elegantly patterned white jacket and vest, and a silver-blue tie, Galway walked on stage, took a modest bow and, milking the moment, gestured for more applause. This was a musical institution that didn’t take himself too seriously.
But when Galway played, it was all business and no horsing around.
He was stylish, clear and joyful in Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2, generating applause after his first-movement cadenza.
Next, he was joined by his wife, flutist Jeanne Galway, for a salon showpiece titled “Rigoletto” Fantasy by brother flutists Franz and Karl Doppler.
This 19th century paraphrase took some getting used to, particularly hearing the ominous curse motif jollied up for such easy consumption. But the twining interplay around Gilda’s “Caro nome” was lovely, and who has lived who hasn’t heard the “Vendetta” duet played by two flutes? The Galways were superb.
The Fantasy tipped the balance into lighter fare. The two flutists followed with arrangements of Mozart’s “Turkish” Rondo and, amazingly, Meredith Willson’s “Seventy-Six Trombones.” Galway ended the program proper with Bach’s non-stop Bandinerie from the Orchestral Suite No. 2.
At encore time, Galway’s restrained “Danny Boy” was marred by a persistent helicopter. But the flutist soldiered on, and the audience applauded lustily.
— Chris Pasles
Photo: Slatkin on the podium, Galway on the flute. Credit: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times