ROUSE; IBERT Flute Concertos
Christopher Rouse’s Flute Concerto was composed as a direct response to the killing of James Bulger in Liverpool in 1993. It expresses the shock and incomprehension that we all experienced at that appalling, senseless crime, but at the same time it enshrines the beauty and innocence of an infant life so cruelly snuffed out. At the concerto’s centre there is a poignant elegy that echoes and pre-echoes the quiet Celtic-tinged melodies forming the first and last of the concerto’s five movements. Katherine Bryan and the RSNO under Jac van Steen capture the fluctuating moods of the music superbly in this performance, by turns lyrical, playful, sinister and violent.
Bryan certainly has complete mastery of the technical and expressive demands, as she does in Ibert’s Concerto of 1933. Exuberance of spirit coupled with the mellowness of her golden timbre lend the first movement a lightness, energy and mellifluous fluency, with the rich sonority of her flute’s lower register coming into its own in the central Andante. The final Allegro scherzando, exercising any soloist’s dexterity and breath control, is played with captivating élan, the orchestra etching in its contributions with rhythmic point. Frank Martin’s Ballade of 1939, written as a competition piece, likewise draws from Bryan a beautifully modulated interpretation, shapely and seductive of contour in the slower sections, athletic in the rhythmic ducking and diving of sprightlier music. Her playing of Debussy’s Syrinx, the ne plus ultra of the solo flute repertoire, is exquisitely eloquent.