Artist Spotlight: Insights from LSO Principal Flute Gareth Davies

On Friday 13 May LSO Principal flute Gareth Davies takes to the stage at LSO St Luke's to perform some of his favourite chamber music for the instrument alongside recital partner Michael McHale, in a concert in partnership with BBC Radio 3. We spoke to Gareth about his instrument and what to expect from the concert.

When did you first start playing the flute, and what made you choose that instrument?

I started when I was around 10 years old. I wanted to play the trumpet but saw James Galway on Blue Peter. I liked the sound and he said it was easy to play… so that was it. Years later I told him this story and he replied 'Ah yes it is, but I didn't say it was easy to play well … '.

How do the pieces in this concert show the different capabilities of the flute?

I used to sing in a choir when I was a kid and, with a Welsh father, singing was always part of my life. The flute for me is very much like the human voice and, as I've not been blessed with a Bryn Terfel tone, playing the flute is the next best thing. Two of the pieces are song based. The wonderful songs by William Grant Still which for me evokes a strong sense of place and the piece which Electra wrote for me, Glen Sannox River Song, which does the same. It uses singing techniques from the area she is from and I actually get to sing and stamp my feet in it as well!

The contrast between the pieces by Walthew and Debussy are unbelievable given that they were written within a few years of each other. I love Walthew's Idyll because it is what it is, a great tune very much of its time. Debussy's Syrinx on the other hand is seemingly ahead of its time and still sounds modern today.

The flute has a vast amount of contemporary and Baroque repertoire but not much from the Romantic era. Reinecke's Undine Sonata is a wonderful piece that plays to the strengths of the flute and also tells a story. It's a great duo for flute and piano and the last movement in particular takes a great amount of power and air to play. It's a great piece to really get your teeth into!

What is special about chamber music concerts to you, as opposed to eg an orchestral concert in a big thousand-seat venue?

I love playing in the orchestra but there is something very intimate about playing in smaller venues with just one other player. LSO St Luke’s is a very familiar place for me, I remember doing sound tests there 15 years ago, and the LSO rehearses and records here all the time. For me, it's a home game.

In three words, how would you describe your instrument?

Dark, warm and expensive.

Friday 13 May 1pm

Debussy Syrinx
Richard H Walthew Idyll
Electra Perivolaris Glen Sannox River Song
William Grant Still arr Alexa Still Three Songs for Flute and Piano
Carl Reinecke Undine Sonata

Gareth Davies flute
Michael McHale piano

Tickets: £15 (£13 concessions, £5 under-18s)


Find out what's coming up next in the Artist Spotlight series here

Recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio 3

bbc radio 3 web

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Wednesday 18 May at LSO St Luke's and Thursday 19 May at Brighton Festival: Gareth Davies performs Marc-André Dalbavie's Flute Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra

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