Sir James Galway undertook his first world tour to South Africa in 1975 and hence his illustrious career as a solo flautist commenced. At this memorable event, he performed the Londonderry Air to a packed house in the Cape Town City Hall. He mesmerized the audience to such an extent that after completion of his last note, a dead silence fell upon the audience! As he disappeared off the stage, rapturous applause broke loose! It was thus quite appropriate that Sir James visited South Africa 40 years later, to relive history and perform the Londonderry Air again.

Willi Zimmermann, Sir James and Lady Jeanne Galway © Leonard Heydenrych
Willi Zimmermann, Sir James and Lady Jeanne Galway
© Leonard Heydenrych

Members of the South African National Youth Orchestra performed alongside the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, under direction of concertmaster Willi Zimmermann. The programme commenced with Haydn's Symphony no. 59 in A major. This work was performed with delicate precision and the accurate horn solos rendered by members of the Youth Orchestra were noteworthy. Following this, Sir James Galway performed Mozart's Flute Concerto no. 2 in D major, to the great delight of the audience. With his well-known virtuosity, Galway demonstrated the classical style with great aptness and sensitivity. In particular, his sensitive use of vibrato made the true style of Mozart shine. His suppleness of tone was evident and he combined this with finesse of flawless tonguing. His apt cadenzas were well paced. His tone was penetrating and filled even the smallest crevices of the hall, as if to welcome the ‘Maestro’ back.

The second half commenced with an invigorating performance of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. This is a demanding work for even the best orchestras. The concertmaster, Willi Zimmermann, led the orchestra in an immaculate manner, which emanated in a flawless performance. He has undoubtedly succeeded in raising the bar for the performance of string ensemble works internationally with his energetic leadership and by inspiring young players to perform at a professional level.

The performance was concluded with the Concerto in G major for two flutes by Cimarosa. Sir James and Lady Jeanne Galway are probably the most experienced flute duo globally and this was evident in their precise execution of fast double tonging passages. The two flutes played sympathetically towards each other and created beautiful sound colours.

The audience was treated to two beautiful encores. These included an emotional rendition of the aforementioned Londonderry Air, which was performed by Sir James with full warm tone, accurately measured vibrato and a final note which faded away with perfect control. History indeed repeated itself.

A delightful arrangement of Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca from the third movement of his Piano Sonata K331, orchestrated by David Overtone specifically for the Galway duo, brought the audience to their feet once again. This virtuoso arrangement is characterized by interplay between the two flutes. The Cape Town audience is looking forward to a swift return of Sir James Galway and Lady Galway after this historic and memorable performance.