From The Times-Picayune (New Orleans) - Sept. 16, 2002

Galway inspired in 'Giants of the Night'
New Work is exceptional

    By Keith Marshall
    Classical music writer
Concertgoers expecting the usual playfulness and wit of renowned Irish flutist James Galway had to wait for the encores Saturday night.

The main attraction at the nearly sold-out Mahalia Jackson Theater of Performing Arts was a serious one: the world premier by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra of composer David Amram's concerto for flute and orchestra, "Giants of the Night," performed by Galway.

The world's most famous flutist commissioned the work, in which Amram, known for his inclusion of musical and literary influences from around the world, honors jazz greats Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and Beat generation writer Jack Kerouac, all friends of his in the 1950s. Basing the concerto in a classical format modified with jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms, Amram created a work that showed the audience a different, more serious Galway than usual.

Indeed, the elfin Galway stepped on stage seriously, as if he were facing a final exam. And throughout the performance, his eyes rarely left the score - understandable at the first performance of a new work, but unlike the supremely self-confident, playful Galway the world knows.

Nevertheless, Galway's playing was inspired throughout. In the first movement of the concerto, dedicated to Charlie Parker, Amram crafted a careful balance between orchestra and soloist, playing the long lyrical line of the flute against dramatic percussion and techniques such as finger snapping and clapping. Paired against different orchestral sections, the flute variations became more poignant and complicated throughout the movement.

The key to Amram's composition in the concerto is exact notation written to sound improvised. This is especially true for the flute, which is the leader throughout the concerto.

In the second movement, dedicated to Kerouac, the flute became more melancholy, especially when it picked up two French Canadian songs that Kerouac used to sing.

In the third movement, Galway had more of a chance to break away, playing such Afro-Cuban songs - which Gillespie loved - as a chalanga. There were times when the orchestra overwhelmed Galway, but one of the most memorable parts was the speed with which the flute raced to the finale and then came to a dead stop.

Throughout, Amram's genius was apparent, in his blend of musical styles and in the breadth of conception. "Giants of the Night" is an exceptional composition with great potential for becoming part of the flute repertoire. It is filled with imaginative touches and united by the the respect shown for its subjects.