- Ballade for flute & piano
Among the young British instrumentalists vying to pick up the mantles of the great soloists of a generation ago, flutist Katherine Bryan seems among the most promising, and she takes a major step forward with this, her second release. Her startlingly clear, bright articulation in the upper register is pleasing on its own, yet the real attraction here is that she approaches a repertory intelligently and brings fresh perspectives to it. The "Flute Concerto" (1993) of Christopher Rouse only seems to be the odd item in the set; Rouse's instrumental writing, with its intricate grasp of texture and register, is truly a descendant of the French (and French-Swiss) music on the rest of the album, and it was an inspired choice in terms of showcasing Bryan's technique as well. The three central movements have a memorial tone, with flute solos woven into Rouse's characteristically spacious chords, and Bryan has the stamina to stick with the long line here. Ibert's delightful "Concerto for flute and orchestra" (1934) receives an absolutely crackling performance from Bryan. Only then does Bryan introduce Debussy's "Syrinx," a little work that looms over this entire repertory. It superficially resembles the music from "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun," but it's actually a different kind of animal, cast in the economical language of Debussy's late style. It leads perfectly into the final item, Frank Martin's "Ballade" (1939), one of the few attempts to reconcile the twelve-tone system with the French style. The entire program holds together in a way that makes it more than the sum of its parts, and the support from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Jac van Steen matches Bryan step for step. An immensely satisfying flute-and-orchestra recital.