En todos ... fluye con mansedumbre cristalina y evanescencia sensual el verbo poético de Galway, destacando como un rayo dorado por entre el entramado casi arquitectónico de instrumentos de la gran Filarmónica. Hechizante.
Record Review /
Melómano (Madrid) / 01. May 2006
Escuchar a James Galway haciendo música de cámara es extremadamente placentero ... Pero escucharlo junto a la Filarmónica berlinesa ... es, además. enormemente excitante. Dominio absoluto del instrumento, coloración plagada de irisaciones, impecable y refinado fraseo.
Record Review /
Pedro Sancho de la Jordana Dezcallar,
Ritmo (Madrid) / 01. July 2006
Sir James Galway and the Berliner Philharmoniker
The audition was set for 12 o'clock - or so James Galway thought. But when he turned up at the Deutsches Museum in Munich on 29 January 1969 (the orchestra was on tour at the time), he was greeted gruffly with the words: "You're too late. Go home. We'll pay your fare, of course. And don't complain, the standard is in any case far too high for most people."
But an obstinate Irishman is not so easily put off. Once James Galway had recovered from his shock, he chose his words carefully and replied with studied British politeness: "Having come all this way, at least I'd expect you to have the good manners to listen to me play the flute." And so Galway was allowed to audition. He began with Mozart's D major Flute Concerto, after which Herbert von Karajan demanded to hear L'après-midi d'un faune, followed by a bit of Brahms.
Galway had prepared a number of completely different audition pieces and had hoped to start with Jacques Ibert's Flute Concerto, but instead he found himself having to play from memory. His pure, romantic tone pleased the jury, and in the second round, later that same day, he found himself sharing the stage with four other flautists. Again they were asked to play in turn, first from left to right, then from right to left. As before, Galway was the only one to play from memory. Within half an hour the jury had reached its verdict, and he was informed: "Congratulations, Mr. Galway. You are now the principal flautist with the Berliner Philharmoniker. When can you start?"
Galway was taken aback, not least by the distinctly bureaucratic, German manner of his appointment. And so he replied quite coolly: "Listen here, I don't know that I can start at all. I mean, I'm not sure that I want to start. You're all so rude that I don't feel I want to start. You've done nothing but tell me off. Why should I leave all my nice colleagues in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in order to come to Berlin?"
The people from the orchestra could not believe their own ears: "But Mr. Galway," they stuttered, "when you're offered a job in a German orchestra, you have to take it." But the flautist just packed his bags and flew back to London. "I simply didn't care for the Philharmonic's arrogant attitude," he recalls today.
He had barely got home when the telephone rang. The Philharmonic explained that he had been unanimously chosen by all the musicians and that this was an honour. They begged him to reconsider. And so he returned - for a probationary month. In the event, James Galway remained in Berlin for six years.
For all their differences, the period spent by the typically temperamental Irishman in Berlin's leading orchestra, with its typically German sound, produced a number of milestones in the history of orchestral recordings with prominent parts for the flute.
This was a period when the Cold War still ruled the lives of the city's inhabitants. The Berlin Wall had been built and, within its shadow, the Philharmonie became an important centre in the cultural arms race. The Berliner Philharmoniker represented the West German middle classes, Galway the new sense of optimism associated with the still young nation. Under Herbert von Karajan, the Philharmonic stood for romantic values, while Galway, whose early appearances had been in smoky Belfast dance halls, was happy to be tempted by West Berlin's subculture: he wore a Frank Zappa beard, discovered the local bars and swapped his tie and tails for fashionable trousers and shirts, with the result that for the purposes of their television recordings Karajan did all he could to hide away this Irish alien with his golden-toned flute in the back rows of the orchestra.
Yet in spite of - or because of - all these conflicts, Galway still considers the years that he spent in Berlin to have been important for him. He has no regrets when he looks back on this period and says: "I was a Berliner." It was only with the Berliner Philharmoniker that he learned what a real orchestra should sound like. And he is convinced that each soloist must have the experience of playing in a professional ensemble - "and what could be better than the Berliner Philharmoniker?"
He rented an apartment at 50 Mommsenstrasse, where his neighbours were hippies. Every Saturday he would play football on the field belonging to the Royal Air Force. And he and his friends would cook communal meals. Berlin could be pleasantly warm in the Cold War.
But it was a different world that Galway entered when he attended rehearsals at the Philharmonie. "Under Herbert von Karajan, one thing above all was expected," recalls Galway: "excellent preparation. And I swear to you: schnapps was schnapps even then, and work was work. I've always stuck to that - even today."
Galway speaks enthusiastically about the charismatic conductor who was always receptive to his principal flautist's inspired eccentricities. In the slow movement of Beethoven's Fourth Symphony, for example, there is an ascending scale in Eflat major marked piano: Galway phrased this passage in such a way that the line moved inexorably towards the final note, then, without taking a breath, he carried the phrase over into the first note of the return of the main theme. "Karajan heard it, realized what was new about it and said: 'Do it like that every time, it sounds good.'"
In spite of Galway's eccentricities, the conductor was fond of him and his romantic tone. He also appreciated the fact that Galway's flute was a state-of-the-art instrument with a Cooper scale, virtually never going out of tune but providing the orchestra with a solid foundation in terms of its intonation.
Galway flourished, especially in the major and lesser flute parts featured in the present recordings. In the "Domine Deus" from Bach's B minor Mass he developed a trick designed to help him play these "fiendish notes" perfectly in tune: certain parts were taken by his colleague, Andreas Blau, allowing everything to sound smooth and light. The "Dance of the Seven Veils" from Strauss's Salome was recorded more or less by accident: "My colleague was supposed to record it," says Galway, "but he couldn't, so I sight-read the piece, which I'd never set eyes on it before." It was the first and last time that Galway performed the "Dance of the Seven Veils".
Even during his years with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Galway was already making a name for himself playing concertos and with chamber ensembles like the Amadeus Quartet at a sold-out Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. Time and again he toyed with the idea of leaving the Philharmonic and starting a career of his own. In the event, his departure from Berlin proved at least as spectacular as his arrival.
Shortly before the Berliner Philharmoniker's legendary opening concert at the Lucerne Festival, Karajan said to him: "I hear that you want to leave us. That would be a very bold decision," he added paternalistically, "but it's one that I would naturally regret. Even so: if you really want to, then do it." But on the day that he finally handed in his notice - it was his birthday, 8 December - Galway recalls that "Herbie had a real fit". The conductor showed his anger by refusing to allow his principal flautist to appear at the opening of the following year's Salzburg Easter Festival.
But Galway was largely unconcerned by this. Instead, he went off to the recording studio and made his first solo album, The Man with the Golden Flute, which was shortly followed by a second release, this time with the pianist Martha Argerich. Within a very short time, Galway had sold one million records and laid the foundations for his future solo career, even though he was still principal flautist with the Berliner Philharmoniker.
"Do you know," he now says, "I learnt a lot during that wild time." In particular he was impressed by Karajan's creativity: "He was a meticulous worker, a perfectionist, a committed rehearser and, at the same time, a master of improvisation. And he was a genius where recording technology was concerned." Such technology was also to become important to Galway in his work as a soloist. But when it came to the position and number of his microphones, Galway had a second model alongside Karajan: Elvis Presley. "He was the first person to use more than two microphones in a hall. I think I was fairly successful in imitating him here."
Nowadays, whenever James Galway says "I was a Berliner", he also means: "I'm still a bit of a Berliner." He is a perfectionist, a meticulous worker, a thoroughbred musician who, in spite of all his flirtations with the crossover repertoire, remains firmly anchored in the world of classical music. And the human, direct and romantic Irish charm that he demonstrated in Berlin is something that he has retained to this day: it is the secret of his musicianship.