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Reviews: Big night of music from the big screen; Friday Night at the Movies/CBSO/Sir James Galway Symphony Hall.

Byline: Clare Mackney

Composer/conductor Carl Davis and the CBSO are well acquainted both with one another and the film music genre.

They can attract a capacity crowd and, with cello-twirling, whistling high spirits (the orchestra) and gold lam frock-coated affability (Davis), clearly delight it.

Given the rapturous reception for these 17 Oscar-winning items there can be no questioning the music's power to communicate.

But to seek the message in, say, the pedestrian repetitiveness of Vangelis' Chariots of Fire theme, Howard Shore's unexciting Gollum's Song from The Lord of the Rings, or the bland suite from John Williams' E.T. score, is to wonder at the triumph of marketing over substance. Conversely, heroic brass and poignantly romantic cor anglais and horns repeatedly proved just how unerringly these archetypal Hollywood timbres retain their emotional clout, as did John Barry's tremendous evocation of vast landscapes in Out of Africa.

A constant factor (other than initial imbalance in the Star Wars sequence, and some reed roughness on the otherwise delightful Il Postino arrangement by Davis) was the verve of orchestral playing - leader Peter Thomas' ravishingly-vulnerable violin solo from Schindler's List a high point.

It was Tan Dun's Crouching Tiger Concerto that generated the evening's most magical atmosphere, however, with its inventive translation of classical Chinese techniques for western orchestra.

Breathlessly delicate and beautiful to open, it featured cellist Eduardo Vassallo on commanding form, particularly in an electrifying cadenza of glissandi, harmonics and exotic effects, which in other contexts could easily have been categorised as too exploratory and inaccessible for a mass audience.

But Friday night, like Sir James Galway's flute recital the following day, was all about entertainment - an aspect of his career (and it is only one) that has provoked considerable critical disdain.

The incontestable brilliance unleashed on the evening's seven 19th century showpieces was enough on its own to expose the hollowness of such snobbery, but Galway's inspirational impact on young musicians (refreshingly well-represented on Saturday) is a legacy beyond value.

For flautists (and there were many present, as Sir James soon established), his uniquely resonant, penetrating sound is hypnotically expressive - whether simply powerfully eloquent as in Schubert's Introduction and Variations on Ihr Blmlein, or richer, more vibrato-charged, in Franz Doppler's Hungarian Pastoral Fantasy. The brightness and fluidity of his virtuoso passagework was also mesmerising, so fluent and apparently effortless (especially in Briccialdi's The Carnival of Venice and Franois Borne's Carmen Fantasy) to give the impression of unforced, natural exuberance.

Although the sheer number of notes did briefly begin to pall, Galway's technical bravura was always warmly tempered with delicacy and subtlety, and enriched by the quality of support from unassuming but robust accompanist Phillip Moll and, in the Doppler brothers' swaggering Rigolett Fantasy duet, from wife and fellow flautist Jeanne.

And if The Flight of the Bumble Bee did not quite come together as a fourth, blistering encore, who cares? It's just reassuring evidence for aspiring flautists, at last, that their hero is human.


James Galway unleashed his incontestable brilliance
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 12, 2003
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Next Article:Reviews: Chapel setting for magical evening; Jacqueline Ross and David Ponsford Grafton Manor Chapel, Bromsgrove.

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