Magic flute of Galway

James Galway accompanied by Jose Feghali Cultural Centre Concert Hall February 12 IT takes an effort not to be overwhelmed by James Galway. He is a superb musician and his strong, positive character makes it difficult to sit back and analyse the cause of his enormous success as a performer. One factor must be his natural skill as a communicator. He introduced each piece with that charming, yet informative insouciance which is innate to any lecturer who loves his subject.

But he also has the gift of playing with an understanding of the music that commands respect, and demands that his audience actively listen. A perfect example was the lovely Cantilena from Poulenc's Flute Sonata. This is Poulenc at his best - urbane, touching, brilliant music and Galway caressed the notes with exactly the right degree of sensitivity. Too lush would have lacked taste, too harsh would have been a travesty. Galway also knows how to pick and use a co-performer. His accompanist on the piano, Jose Feghali, is a first-class musician in his own right and instead of smothering him, Galway chose a repertoire which gave Feghali plenty to get his teeth into.

The opening work, Mozart's K. 376 sonata, was, for instance, written more with the piano in mind than the flute. Feghali gave a graceful, subtle interpretation of the opening themes before entering into a joyful dialogue with Galway.

Their ensemble was superb, their sense of timing immaculate, and, while this is certainly not the best of Mozart's works, they explored its strengths and the humour of the Haydnesque finale.

Another factor is Galway's choice of programme. They played works that reflected both sides of any performer's repertoire - Gaubert's Fantasie and Debussy's Prelude a l'Apres-midi d'un Faune for the lyrical aspect, and Schubert's D802 Variations as an opportunity for both performers to display their virtuosity.

The Schubert was breathtaking - the flute is astonishingly agile but Galway has a magic that seems to take the instrument to new extremes, executing runs in the later variations that were as close to glissando as it is humanly possible to make a flute go.

It was an intelligent programme, charmingly executed with a delightful air of care-free improvisation by two brilliantly versatile musicians.