Katherine Bryan / Jac van Steen / Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Silver Bow

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The flutist Katherine Bryan has plenty of competition among the crowd of younger players trying to supplant the household flute names of the late 20th/early 21st centuries, and she has several things going for her here. She gets fine engineering support from Scotland's Linn label, working in an unspecified location, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Jac van Steen is closely aligned with her phrasing and overall aims. The concept is clever: the "silver bow" is the flute, for which Bryan (with help on the orchestral parts, but not on the flute part itself) has transcribed a variety of violin pieces, well known and not so much so. This is effectively done: the differences in expressive language and variety of articulation between the two big pieces at the beginning, Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending and Saint-Saëns' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28, are not just a matter of transcribing the notes, and they come through well in Bryan's rendering. But best of all is that, in trying to set herself apart from the crowd, Bryan goes lighter rather than weightier. She brings out of the closet a collection of encore pieces that would mostly have been more common a century ago in concert than they are in 2015, and she gives them the sense of fun they deserve. Frantisek Drdla is far from a household name these days, but his Serenade No. 1 is supremely entertaining in Bryan's hands, and her version of the Paganini Caprice No. 24 (another tall order for transcription) is one whose charisma the Italian virtuoso himself might have enjoyed. The final Sarasate Zigeunerweisen, Op. 30, goes out in a blaze of glory. Bryan's triumph here is that it's hard to conceive of anyone disliking these ebullient, technically impeccable performances.

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