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15 Questions to Sir James Galway

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Would you say there is a difference in the perception of Classical music in the USA when compared to Europe?
I would say there is and what it is is hard to pin down. The USA has a very fine tradition of composers and specially among the younger ones like Bolcom, Corigliano and Liebermann, all for whom have written a concerto for me.

It has already been announced that the Program will be all Mozart – can you enlighten us with some more details on the exact repertoire? And: Will it vary each night?

The repertoire will be the same every night. The repertoire will be confirmed soon!

What excites you personally about Mozart?
Mozart is one of these one off people who astound us all with his genius. His craftsmanship, his melodic invention, his humor and ability to stun us with his virtuoso writing for all instruments. His passion and depth of expression specially in the religious works is specially appealing.

Does playing live still give you the same thrill as it did at the beginning of your career? How does it compare to recording an album?
It does. There are still many things which one has to take into account in different venues, the acoustic, the air conditioning, the lighting and the stage hands. All of these are different in every venue and all contribute to the evening’s music making. There is also your own personal condition. You might arrive a little tired and have to combat that on stage.

On a more general level, what constitutes a good live performance in your eyes? And: What’s your approach to performing on stage?
A good live performance on stage is one with total commitment of the executant. A performance where the players are totally committed to playing the music. My personal approach is to close down all personal thoughts of the day and concentrate on the music. That it should touch the listener at all times.

You’ve championed new repertoire (by current composers) and called it “the future of classical music”.  On the other hand, a lot of people seem to want to listen to the same (admittedly great) old melodies again and again. How do you reconcile these two poles?
The reason for people wanting to listen to the same masterpieces time and time again is quite simple. They are listening to music which they know and though its inventive qualities is evergreen in its appeal. The new music I play has also strong original inventive content. Take the pied Piper Fantasy of John Corigliano for example where we have children involved and where the last part is written for tin whistle and orchestra. This has a strong appeal to any audience.

What’s your view on the flute in Pop and Rock pieces, for example with bands like Jethro Tull?

Ian Anderson is a very unique entertainer. I think he is the king in this sphere. The flute of course is not going to replace the guitar in rock or pop but it does have a good place there in the hands of the right people like Bill McBirnie, Hubert Laws and the late Moe Koffman who wrote the famous Swinging Shepherd Blues.

You have recorded with many Pop and Jazz artists yourselves. Which of them was most interesting to work with? Was there anything you could lean for your Classical performances?
Playing with the pop group is another world. They are all different and have their own unique was of making music. I don’t think there is anything to be learned from pop music to make the interpretation of classical music better. Completely different worlds as far as I know.

Apart from the US-tour, you will also release two new Classical albums very soon – what can you tell us about them?
DGG, are going to put out a recording of me playing in the Berlin Philharmonic. These pieces taken from the period during which I was solo flute in the orchestra, all contain famous flute solos and are all conducted by Herbert von Karajan with the exception of one track which is conducted by Karl Bohm. The US release is scheduled for Feb. 14th. titled Ich war ein Berliner (modified from J.F.K.'s famous quote from his speech in front of the Berlin wall: "Ich bin ein Berliner."), James Galway and the Berlin Philharmonic.
The second recording (release date to be confirmed) will be and all Mozart recording and with my wife Lady Jeanne and the young harpist Catrin Finch playing on it. David Overton the UK composer has written a piece specially for the recording and we will play it on the US tour. It is called the Magic flutes and is a really amusing piece.

One of your collaborators was Catrin Finch. How did you get in touch with here? And, more importantly: What was working with her like? She seems one of the finest young talents out there...
I was asked to play and conduct a concert with Catrin and the London Mozart players. It was quite clear to me right there and then that she was an exceptional talent. It is very nice to work with her and her youth and virtuosity bring a new sparkle to the repertoire.

As you are one of the most prolific album artists out there: What do you tell those that feel there is no need to record Classical music any more, that it’s all been done before?

There is a need to record classical music. There are a lot of very talented people out there and it would be a shame if we could not buy a recording of them doing their best. Take for example la Traviata. It has been recorded many times but I think it would be a great shame if we never heard Anna Netrebko.

With the Galway Network, you are presenting your knowledge and experience to a whole new generation of musicians. What is the basic message you want to get across?
Not having taught the flute privately over the last few decades I have now come to the  conclusion using modern methods like the internet, to share what `I have learned over this time. I have found out a lot about interpretation, tone production, technique, instruments and all sorts of other things which I feel I should share. The Galway connection is where I put my latest concerts, demonstrations of how to play and advice on getting instruments. Everyone is invited to share in the  chat room and we have experts to answer questions about extended and jazz techniques.

The Galway Network presents education in a very friendly manner – you can go there, if you are interested without anyone forcing you. Still, in many of your interviews you emphasize the need for discipline and labor to go hand in hand with talent. How do you balance the need for joy in playing and the need for hard work?
The joy one experiences on the concert platform is a direct result of the hard work put in when one is in the studio. Playing the flute for me is a form of self discipline. I am not competing with anyone but rather I am trying to master something. It is of course a great joy when one succeeds.

British composer Steve Jolliffe remarked “Creativity is a part of life, an expression of our thoughts and emotions. It is the individuals cry for freedom. There is no end to it.“ What does music mean to you?

Composers are quite different from performers. They are creators and we are interpreters. Music over the years has become my life. Playing music, listening to music and practicing it is something which I look upon as food for my soul. I have been blessed with the gift of music and am grateful to my God for the pleasure it has given me and others.

For a complete Discography, visit Sir James Galway's personal homepage

Sir James Galway

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