Katherine Bryan - Liebermann Flute Concerto - International Record Review

This is an excellent programme of music for flute and orchestra by twentieth-century composers played by the young British flautist Katherine Bryan (principal flute of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra), with the players of the RSNO on unfailingly alert and responsive form under Paul Daniel. The first work on the disc is the most recent: the Flute Concerto of 1992 by Lowell Liebermann. It was commissioned by James Galway, for whom Liebermann wrote a concerto that is warm-hearted, resolutely tonal, idiomatically written for the soloist and extremely enjoyable in a performance as engaging as this: Bryan and Daniel are both on splendid form. The soloist demonstrated a welcome penchant for very alert rhythms and plenty of tonal variety, while the orchestra sounds as if it's thoroughly enjoying the undemanding delights of the piece. Bryan's articulation in the last movement is phenomenally clear, and she also plays with a strong sense of direction and characterizes phrases with an impressive range of colour.

The Fantaisie for flute and orchestra by Georges Hüe is a work that flautists usually know very well but that deserves wider exposure. Hüe composed several operas (including Titania, based on Shakespeare), and a ballet - Siang-Sin - that is a pleasing piece of chinoiserie composed after a trip to the Far East. The Fantaisie (1913) was dedicated to the great French flute teacher Adolphe Hennebains and, like Debussy's Rapsodie for clarinet from a couple of years earlier, it began life as a competition piece for the Paris Conservatoire (for flute and piano) before being orchestrated. Bryan's performance here is delightful: she never forces her tone, shapes lines with seemingly effortless lyricism and with a very sensitive ear to subtle colouring of her tine. The result is wholly convincing. By no means every morceau de concours deserves revival, but Hüe's Fantaisie is delicate, charming, attractively tinged with some Impressionist harmonies and very winning in sympathetic hands.

Lennox Berkeley's orchestration of the Poulenc Flute Sonata is an extremely successful transcription. Berkeley is very sensitive to his old friend's work and his 1976 orchestral version paints the work in delicate hues that always remain true to the spirit of the original flute and piano version. Again, Bryan, the RSNO and Daniel produce a performance of the highest quality, with plenty of unforced poetry but no syrupy sentimentality. This lovely disc has many highlights but it's perhaps this performance I shall return to most often.

The admirable booklet notes by Adam Binks tell us that Nielsen's Flute Concerto was given with a temporary ending (Nielsen needed to finish it in a hurry in time for its Paris premiere on October 21st, 1926) and was completed in the form we now know it only the following year. This is perhaps the most demanding work on the disc, yet Bryan's performance is on a level with the best - helped by Daniel, who draws some positively radiant playing from the orchestra when it's called for and makes the most of passages like the extraordinary dialogue between flue and trombone (with timpani) four minutes into the first movement. As with all the other pieces on this immensely attractive SACD, the sound is up to Linn's usual (marvellous) standard and the booklet is a genuine enhancement to a fine release that deserves this warmest recommendation.

International Record Review
26 October 2010