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RSNO Opening Concert

By Michael Tumelty (September 07 2015)


Rather oddly, Peter Oundjan’s express intention for the RSNO in the opening concerts of their new season felt a bit lopsided on Saturday night. The RSNO music director wanted to “show off” the orchestra through its programmes. To a degree he did that. Until hell freezes over, I will maintain Wagner never wrote a passage of counterpoint to rival what he achieved in the development section of The Mastersingers Overture, played at the weekend with intensity and clarity by the RSNO.

And if what is required to give Rimsky-Korsakov’s fabulous Scheherazade its wide-screen sweep, its rich colouring its rivetingly-worked narrative and it’s no-nonsense, down-to-earth, “get your hands off me, you swine” attitude is what Oundnian, leader Maya Iwabuchi and the RSNO lavished on the great sea-picture on Saturday then everyone should be happy.

But the truth is the main event on Saturday was not an RSNO performance per se, but the extraordinary performance by principal flautist Katherine Bryan of the Christopher Rouse’s Flute Concerto, which stole not only the show, but everybody’s heart. What a masterpiece this concerto is: 21 years old and one of the great concertos of the late 20th century, played with astounding insight, maturity and aching intensity by this remarkable young musician.

They would not let her go. Repeatedly she returned for more applause. She signed cds at half time. At the end there was another queue and she kept signing. Bryan has intellect and comprehensive musical resource, including expressivity, in endless supply. She is a great musician, a wonderful communicator and a treasure to the RSNO.

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