Tonight is flute night at the Usher Hall, with the very talented principal flute player of the RSNO, Katherine Bryan, the star. She has recently released a much praised solo flute CD, Silver Bow, and in this concert we are lucky enough to hear works featured on two of its tracks.
The concert begins with her arrangement of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, originally composed for violin. Although the flute cannot really imitate the violin writing, particularly those ethereal high notes the violin makes as the larks soars, the flute does often take the role of a bird in classical music and opera, so still seems appropriate here. Her performance tonight certainly gives a colourful account of the lovely melodies at the heart of what is one of the best known works in British music.
Not content with her starring role in this opening work, Bryan then performs the world premiere of The White Road, a flute concerto by the young Scottish composer Martin Suckling. Suckling had always wanted to write a flute concerto for Bryan, who he has known for 20 years. The work attempts to give her the space to “sing” on the flute, while backed by an orchestra of “virtual flutes” on strings.
Although it does not fully work, this difficult contemporary work certainly gives Bryan a chance to show her virtuosity, which she does with no music in front of her. After a great rendition of this new work, she gives us a lovely encore of Massenet’s Méditation from his opera Thaïs, arranged by her for flute and orchestra.
After the interval, a bigger RSNO, with lots of extra brass, takes on one of the great ballet compositions of the twentieth century, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé (Suites 1 and 2). Totally in charge, the young Norwegian conductor, Arild Remmereit, directs the orchestra to produce an explosion of colour and melody, ending in a wonderful orgiastic climax. Bryan continues to have a leading role, as the orchestra’s principal flautist: it is truly is an evening of magical flutes!