The supply of good music for flute has never met the demands of soloists and audience, so poaching music written for other instruments is a hallowed tradition. Last night's sold-out Mostly Mozart concert at the Kennedy Center with James Galway carried this to an extreme, though, because only a brief andante by Mozart was originally for flute. Purists aside, though, what was heard was most satisfying.
Vivaldi was the principal object of last night's musical larceny, and the work was, no less, "The Four Seasons." The rigorous violin part in each of the four seasonal concertos became the flute part. What's next, one might ask, refitting the Beethoven "Emperor" for soprano and strings?
The idea of a transcription of "The Four Seasons" for flute seemed like a bad one, but it worked better last night than might have been expected, in part because Galway was in dazzling form in this work, both technically and stylistically. Also, remember that "Seasons" is program music--full of imitations from nature. So there is a certain logic in hearing the cuckoo and the turtle dove and the goldfinch in the "Summer" concerto coming from a flute. Also, Galway sounded lovely in sections where a sensuous sound is desired, as in the slow movement of the "Autumn" concerto, which evokes "the sweet delights of peaceful sleep." But the violin's sharper sound was greatly missed in the whole "Winter" concerto, for instance. Playing "The Four Seasons" should not become a habit among flutists.
The other work lifted from another source was the wonderful D-major Mozart Flute Concerto, but here the purists have a little problem: The thief in this case was Mozart himself. He was commissioned to write some flute concertos but missed his deadline, so this rearrangement of a previous oboe concerto was made--which proves that even consumer fraud can be beautiful. The performance was a bit too fast and sleek, doing greater justice to the display of Galway's virtuosity than to Mozart's.
As one of the encores, by the way, there were two movements from one of the greatest works ever written for flute and orchestra, the Bach Second Suite. The performances were enormously buoyant.