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Katherine Bryan Plays Flute Concertos By Christopher Rouse & Jacques Ibert

Rouse / Bryan / Royal Scottish National Orch
Release Date: 05/28/2013 
Label:  Linn Records   Catalog #: 420   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Christopher RouseClaude DebussyFrank MartinJacques Ibert
Performer:  Katherine Bryan
Conductor:  Jac Van Steen
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 1 Hours 3 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ROUSE Flute Concerto. IBERT Flute Concerto. MARTIN Ballade for flute, piano, and strings. DEBUSSY Syrinx Katherine Bryan (fl); Jac van Steen, cond; Royal Scottish Natl O LINN 420 (64:15)

This is the Read more third recording of Christopher Rouse’s 1993 Flute Concerto—an unusual situation for a contemporary work. The reasons for its popularity are not hard to fathom. Its five-movement structure of slow-fast-slow-fast-slow is easy to follow, it is expertly orchestrated, and it has enough moments of traditional tonality to satisfy the most conservative audience. Although Rouse is American (born in Baltimore in 1949), the Concerto has a pervasive Celtic feel, particularly in the slow movements. The first and last of these are titled “Amhrán”—the Gaelic word for “song”—while the central movement is an elegy for James Bulger, the young British toddler who was murdered by two 10-year-old boys back in the early 1990s. This movement is notable for its hymn-like passages: the first, which blooms in a warm surge of string tone, and the second, which builds to a shattering and unnerving climax—the only suggestion in this work of the mega- forte s Rouse likes to include in his music. The fast movements are more complex rhythmically and harmonically, requiring considerable agility from the soloist, whereas beauty of tone and an ability to sustain a long lyrical line are the attributes demanded in the outer movements. Bryan rises to every challenge; a former Juilliard student, she is now principal flute with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and has previously recorded concertos by Nielsen and Liebermann with them.

Ibert’s Flute Concerto (1933) is much more of an overt showpiece, with its perky, carefree outer movements and smooth central Andante . Frank Martin’s Ballade , originally with piano accompaniment and later arranged by the composer for piano and string orchestra, is one of the earliest in his series of short concertante works under that title. A reasonable portion of the flute part lies in the instrument’s lower register, helping to establish the cool austerity that characterizes the piece. Debussy’s flute solo Syrinx depicts the chaste nymph of that name in ancient mythology, who transformed into a reed by a lake to escape the unwanted sexual attentions of the god Pan. (Seems a rather extreme solution, but evidently that is how “pan-pipes” came about.) Today Syrinx is in every serious flute player’s repertoire, although it was not published until a decade after the composer’s death. All three of these works are reasonably well known and have been recorded before: many times, in the case of the Debussy.

Rouse’s Concerto was co-commissioned by the American flutist Carol Wincenc, who recorded it for Telarc in 1997 with Christophe Eschenbach and the Houston Symphony Orchestra (of which Eschenbach was then chief conductor). More recently it was recorded by the remarkable Sharon Bezaly, with Alan Gilbert conducting the Stockholm Philharmonic for BIS (coupled, as on the Houston disc, with Rouse’s Second Symphony, but also available in a separate collection of flute concertos). All three flutists are faultless: Bezaly’s fluency sets her apart from her colleagues, and it is interesting to hear dedicatee Wincenc, who is not only a first-rate musician but was instrumental in the work’s creation. Wincenc’s plaintive tone and thoughtful inflection in the final “song” movement create a deeply personal touch. Where Bryan scores above the others—even against the Telarc disc—is in sound. The Linn release offers some of the most lifelike and vivid sound I have ever heard on CD. (It is a multi-channel recording, but I am only equipped to hear it in stereo, where it sounds brilliant.) The recording catches Bryan’s full clear tone beautifully, in perfect balance with the orchestra. For this reason her Ibert and Martin performances could also be regarded as “best buys,” despite excellent alternate versions featuring Emmanuel Pahud (Ibert) and Aurele Nicolet (Martin), both on EMI. In fact, Linn’s sound is so realistic that it picks up Bryan’s intakes of breath, but this is only a problem (if at all) in the solo piece by Debussy; elsewhere it is obscured by the orchestra.

A choice would depend on the couplings, but if you are in the market for a stimulating program of 20th-century flute works, very well played and extremely well recorded, try this.

FANFARE: Phillip Scott
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Flute by Christopher Rouse
Performer:  Katherine Bryan (Flute)
Conductor:  Jac Van Steen
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1993; USA 
Length: 29 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Syrinx by Claude Debussy
Performer:  Katherine Bryan (Flute)
Conductor:  Jac Van Steen
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913 pub 1927; France 
Length: 3 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Ballade for Flute and Piano by Frank Martin
Performer:  Katherine Bryan (Flute)
Conductor:  Jac Van Steen
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; Switzerland 
Length: 8 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Concerto for Flute by Jacques Ibert
Performer:  Katherine Bryan (Flute)
Conductor:  Jac Van Steen
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; France 
Length: 21 Minutes 25 Secs. 

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