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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Katherine Bryan strikes the right notes

The Virtuoso plays Debussy for Dubai Opera’s Music in the Studio series

Katherine Bryan has been the principle flautist for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Courtesy Dubai Opera
Katherine Bryan has been the principle flautist for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Courtesy Dubai Opera

Katherine Bryan is bringing the flute to the foreground.

After a series of engagements as the principle flautist for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the 35-year-old will kick off her first solo performance of the year – supported by Scottish pianist Scott Mitchell – as part of Dubai Opera’s Music In The Studio series.

Held monthly at the venue’s own studio, which seats up to 100 people, the programme runs until June and will feature six performances.

These kind of intimate settings suit Bryan, she says, as her show is as much exploration as a performance.

“It is definitely a way perhaps to get audiences more acquainted with the flute and show what it can do,” she says.

“In a way, this is why these solo shows are more important to me because I get to see people hear the flute as a solo instrument live for the first time and they often walk away really surprised.”

It is also a chance to break some misconception regarding the flute’s ability, which Bryan admits is often constrained within an orchestra.

“It is about listening to it in a different context when it comes to performance,” she says.

“In an orchestra it often takes on quite a lyrical or lighter role; this is entirely dependent on the repertoire but many composers never really looked at the flute in a deeper way when it comes to their work.”

The main reason is that it simply wasn’t popular. “If you go back 100 to 150 years a lot of the main composers at the time were mostly writing for strings and they didn’t consider the flute as an instrument that could take on what the repertoire entails. Perhaps there weren’t enough standout virtuoso players to create music where instrument could standout on its own”

It was the French composers, Bryan says, who embraced the instrument’s soulful tones. She points to Debussy’s 1894 piece Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un Faune as an example where the flute plays a central role in the work.

The main reason is that it simply wasn’t popular. “If you go back 100 to 150 years a lot of the main composers at the time were mostly writing for strings and they didn’t consider the flute as an instrument that could take on what the repertoire entails. Perhaps there weren’t enough standout virtuoso players to create music where instrument could standout on its own”

It was the French composers, Bryan says, who embraced the instrument’s soulful tones. She points to Debussy’s 1894 piece Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un Faune as an example where the flute plays a central role in the work.

“It’s a beautiful piece and it shows the range of emotions the flute can provide. If you hear it, it begins with flute setting the tone of it all,” she says.

“It was the French that really understood and championed the flute, another example of that is in Daphnis and Chloé Suite by Ravel.”

While Debussy will be featured in tonight’s programme, Bryan will also take on well-known works, such Paganini’s Caprice No 24, that were not written for her instrument.

“Now that’s a very popular violin virtuoso piece of music and I made my own version for the flute. It was challenging as there a lot of techniques in there for violin, things like pizzicato [plucking the strings], which I obviously can’t do but finding my own as a flautist to convey that,” she says.

“Another piece to look out for is Song for the Moon by Dvorak. That was an opera aria and what I enjoy doing here is putting the music on top of the words and kind of play them through the phrasing and the fragility of the sound.”

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Read more:

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It is the flute’s proximity to the human voice that drew Bryan to the instrument as a seven-year-old.

“It actually began with me taking on the piano at the age of five and my parents only allowing me to take on another instrument a few years later. I remember seeing someone playing it and the sound was just so beautiful and real and the look of it as well. So I was like, yes, sign me up for that,” she recalls.

“My parents were absolutely delighted as the flute also fitted comfortably in the car.”

Katherine Bryan and Scott Mitchell will perform at Dubai Opera tonight at 8pm. Tickets begin from Dh150 from www.dubaiopera.com

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