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Galway gears up for Lucerne festival

Galway will conduct the Zurich Chamber Orchestra later this month Keystone

Few international stars travelling to this year's Lucerne Music Festival face an easier journey than the world famous flute player, James Galway.

This content was published on August 15, 2002 - 08:56

Galway lives on the shores of Lake Lucerne and has made Switzerland his home for more than 25 years.

A regular performer in his adopted country, he will be playing pieces by Joseph Haydn and Franz Schubert at the festival on August 26.

His lakeside villa is a world away from the streets of Belfast in Northern Ireland where he grew up. But, as Galway explains, his musical talent drew him away from home at an early age.

"In fact I moved to London as a teenager to study at the Royal College of Music, so my formative years were spent there," Galway told swissinfo. "And I've lived in Switzerland since 1975. It's a wonderful place to live; I have a great time here."

Nevertheless, Galway's Irish background has been an important influence in his musical development. He started playing the penny whistle, a traditional instrument, before graduating to the flute, which he played in one of Belfast's famous marching bands.

Classical success

But it was as a classical musician that Galway first found success. His early career included time with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic, before being appointed principal flute with the Berlin Philharmonic, under the world famous conductor Herbert von Karajan.

Such a glittering classical career would have been enough for many musicians, but not Galway, who has pursued a solo professional career since 1975.

"There are just so many things I want to do, and being principal flute in a major orchestra occupies too much time," he explains. "You can't get enough time off to pursue a really professional international career."

During his first year as a soloist, Galway played 120 concerts, and things haven't slowed down much since then. He has more than 50 successful albums to his name, ranging from classical, to Irish folk, to popular music.

Golden flutes and alphorns

Now aged 62, it might be expected that Galway would perhaps begin cutting back on his many engagements, but nothing could be further from his mind.

His music room overlooking Lake Lucerne is littered with details of upcoming performances. Over the next few months his itinerary includes concerts in the United States, Britain, Italy and Germany.

But Galway also maintains musical connections with his adopted country Switzerland. An alphorn has pride of place in his music room, next to three golden flutes he has collected over the years.

"I do play the alphorn from time to time," admits Galway. "It's a very interesting instrument."

And Galway also has plans for several performances in Switzerland: in addition to his upcoming performance at the Lucerne Music Festival, he is a guest conductor with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and will be playing with them in St Moritz at the end of August.

Despite such a busy agenda, Galway is still making ambitious plans for the future. "I'd like to record all the Handel sonatas," he says, "and I'd like to conduct the Mozart Requiem mass."

by Imogen Foulkes

Lucerne and Galway

The festival runs until September 15.
There will be five leading international orchestras in residence.
This year's "composers in residence" are France's Pierre Boulez and Austria's Olga Neuwirth.
The famous Austrian pianist, Alfred Brendel, will be performing a series of concerts.

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