‘The Man with the Golden Flute” is what Sir James Galway dubbed himself on one of his early albums, and over a career that’s spanned more than half a century, he’s spun everything he’s played into gold. He was principal flute for the Berlin Philharmonic for six years before leaving to start a solo career. He’s performed with everyone from the Chieftains to Henry Mancini, Cleo Laine, and Cuba’s Tiempo Libre. His sense of humor is evident in album titles like “My Magic Flute” and “Ich war ein Berliner.”
Sunday afternoon, in a Celebrity Series concert, he brought his Legacy Tour to Symphony Hall, accompanied by his flutist wife, Lady Jeanne Galway, pianist Michael McHale, and a quintet of strings. He also brought that sense of humor, holding up his flute at the outset, asking, “What is this?,” and then answering, “An airline ticket to visit all the great places in the world.” Later, addressing the students in the audience, he observed that the two works he was about to play, by François-Joseph Gossec and Marin Marais, were good pieces to try because “they’re in F major, which is real easy. That’s why I’m playing them now!” And he thanked the sponsors, pointing out that it was attending sponsored concerts in his native Belfast that prompted him to take up the flute.