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Katherine Bryan - plays Flute Concertos by Christopher Rouse and Jacques Ibert - International Record Review


01 August 2013
International Record Review
Colin Anderson

I listened first to Syrinx (track 9) for an opportunity to hear Katherine Bryan alone, albeit for only a few minutes but enough time to distinguish her rich and sultry timbre and, in this work, a capacity to be seductive and siren-like. The disc's playing order isn't ideal; it ends with Frank Martin's eight-minute Ballade (1939), a coolly beautiful piece of contrasts, absolute in one sense, suggestive in another. The scoring adds strings and piano to the solo flute.

Jacques Ibert's slightly earlier Concerto (1933) was written for Marcel Moyse and uses an orchestra of woodwinds, horns and timpani as well as the 'usual' strings. This witty and lyrical piece is sunny and unforced, and recognizably Gallic. The heart of the work is a lovely if enigmatic central Andante , followed by an attractive if overlong finale (which at times suggests Poulenc as the author), playful, skittish and with a reflective cadenza that leads to a rather mysterious middle section.

Opening the disc, when it should be at the end (on the basis of 'save the best until last'), is the Flute Concerto of Christopher Rouse (born in 1949), arguably the most exciting of contemporary American composers. Anyone who is familiar only with Rouse's pulsating and crushing pieces (such as Gorgon), exhilarating though they are, might be surprised by his 30-minute, five-movement Flute Concerto, composed for Carol Wincenc in 1993 (the year that James Bulger was murdered by two older boys in Liverpool, this dreadful event occurring while Rouse was at work). The outer movements are both entitled Amhran, the Gaelic for 'song', and share similar and sadly expressed material. The first is interrupted when the Alla Marcia second movement crashes in and is more scintillating and unpredictable scherzo, with something of a surreal element. Its counterpart, the fourth movement, is based on a jig but is nowhere as straightforward as that, gathering in momentum until disintegrating into a cadenza and returning to the mood of the work's beginning- simply effective and touching the heart. The work's palindromic design pivots on the extended (ten-minute) Elegia that really tugs at our sensibilities while eating away at them: simple, heartfelt, effective, until catastrophe strikes. Throughout the Rouse, Bryan plays with brilliance, dexterity and sensitivity, fully matching the demands and responses placed upon the soloist.

Bryan is principal flute of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra as well as an established soloist. Her colleagues and the versatile Jac van Steen give her sterling support and the SACD recording is excellent.


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