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Published: Sunday, 2/26/2006

Two musical masters celebrate Mozart

BY STEVEN CORNELIUS
BLADE MUSIC CRITIC

Think of them as opposite sides of the musical coin, the yin and the yang.

Flutist Sir James Galway, music's rags-to-riches extrovert, wears his Irish heart on his sleeve. He charms with broad smile and golden tones. English pianist Stephen Hough reveals himself slowly and quietly, unfolding rich sonic hues to those who pay close attention.

Both musicians return to the Toledo area this week. Sir James, who played in Bowling Green last March, performs and conducts tomorrow evening at the Stranahan Theater with the Polish Chamber Orchestra. Hough, who appeared in Toledo last November, performs a concerto Thursday at BGSU with the Rome-based chamber ensemble I Musici.

In both concerts, the repertoire is all Mozart, part of the worldwide celebration honoring the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth. Though not planned as such, the packaging could hardly have been neater, a musical sandwich of sorts. The string serenade "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik," one of the composer's most popular works, opens tomorrow's concert; it closes Thursday's. In between are concertos for flute and piano, as well as the remarkable Symphony No. 40 in G Minor.

The serenade sandwich effect suggests something important about the fluidity of Mozart's music. Traditionally, orchestral concerts open with something easy to digest, then move toward music of greater emotional depth. Mozart, perhaps more than any other composer, managed to satisfy both of those notions at the same time. His music is simultaneously accessible and transcendent. The serenade is lovely and masterful.

Count on Sir James and Hough to explore the music's countless possibilities.

The world's most recorded classical musician and the 2001 recipient of a Knighthood from Queen Elizabeth, 66-year-old Sir James "grew up poor, cold, and hungry in Belfast." His home had neither hot water nor an outside toilet, he said.

A pennywhistle virtuoso as a child, Sir James soon became enamored with classical music, and as a young adult gradually moved his way up through the orchestral ranks, winning the principal flute position at the Berlin Philharmonic in 1969. There he stayed until 1975, when he left the orchestra to embark on a solo career.

Since then, Sir James has sold more than 30 million albums and he has traded the Belfast slums for a palatial residence overlooking Switzerland's Lake Lucerne. When not playing flute - he still practices one to two hours before eating breakfast - Sir James is likely to be found with baton in hand. He serves as principal guest conductor of the London Mozart Players.

Tomorrow night, Sir James not only conducts the program, but is featured soloist in Mozart's second flute concerto. An avid supporter of contemporary music, he has even managed to insert some "new" sounds into this "all-Mozart" program. He and his flute-playing wife, Lady Jeanne Galway, are both featured in David Overton's "The Magic Flutes," an orchestral arrangement of popular Mozart melodies.

Sir James often travels with his wife. This marks the first time in more than 20 years that he has toured in the United States as both conductor and soloist, however.

Forty-five-year-old Stephen Hough first appeared in Toledo in 2002, when he gave a dazzling performance of Lowell Liebermann's second piano concerto with the Toledo Symphony. Last November's solo recital focused on Mozart. On Thursday he performs Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 14 in E-flat Major.

Like Galway, Hough is dedicated to new music but spends most of his time performing the older repertoire.

Hough's professional career received its first major boost in 1983 when he won the New York-based Naumburg International Piano Competition. In 2001 Hough received a $500,000 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship, commonly known as the "genius" award.

Filling out the Bowling Green program is Rome's renowned 12-member I Musici ensemble. Now in its 54th season, the conductor-free group was created around the idea that all 12 members should have equal say in interpretive issues. All are treated as soloists. The musicians were on to something. This is the model followed some two decades later by New York City's Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, which is renowned not only for its musicianship, but also its creative application of business management principles to performance.

Flutist Lady Jeanne Galway joins her husband, Sir James Galway, and the Polish Chamber Orchestra at 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Stranahan Theater. Remaining tickets are $30 and $60. Information: 419-246-8000 or 800-348-1253.

Pianist Stephen Hough and the chamber ensemble I Musici perform at 8 p.m. Thursday in BGSU's Kobacker Hall of the Moore Musical Arts Center. Tickets range from $25 to $40. Information: 419-372-8171 or 1-800-589-2224.

Contact Steven Cornelius at: scornelius@theblade.com or 419-724-6152.



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