Sibelius 2

Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Jean-Claude Picard – Conductor

Katherine Bryan – Flute

Eden Courts Empire Theatre – Sat 17th Oct 2015


Jean-Claude Picard who has recently been promoted  to Associate Conductor at  the Royal Scottish National Orchestra chose to conduct Mendelssohn’s: The Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave), followed by Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending, arranged by Katherine Bryan and lastly Jean Sibelius: Symphony No 2 in D Major as he thought there was a “strong link” between the three pieces as they each have a quiet strength and power.

The evening began with Mendelssohn’s The Hebrides Overture, which was inspired by his trip to Scotland, which involved a boat trip to Staffa and Fingal’s Cave. The contrast between the more dramatic melodies and quieter more tranquil parts evokes the feeling of travelling at sea and brings to mind opposing nature of Scottish scenery. It was beautifully conducted by Jean-Claude Picard.

Katherine Bryan, the RSNO’s Principle Flautist then joined the orchestra for the first live performance of her own arrangement of The Lark Ascending. In the pre-show talk she explained the reasoning for adapting the violin solo for the flute, she felt the flute is often slightly overlooked and would suit this piece, bringing something unique and adding a different colour and sound. It also has special meaning as it is was one of her fathers favourites.

It was interesting to hear the challenges of playing a violin concerto on a flute, such as having to split the double stopping between the flute and the clarinet and using techniques such as pop tonguing to replicate Pizzicato or plucking of strings. Katherine added a sense of glamour in her blue chiffon dress and gave a stunning passionate performance, that sent tingles down my spine, and her encore performance of Sarasate – Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs) was equally breathtaking.

Jean-Claud Picard
Jean-Claud Picard

The short interval was followed with Sibelius’s epic second symphony in four movements. Sibelius composed the majority of it in Italy and he described it as “a struggle between death and salvation” and “a confession of the soul” but the piece is still steeped in Finnish folklore which is accentuated by oboes and clarinets and it is often identified as the symphony of independence. It takes you on a roller coaster of gentle melodies on strings, rolling timpani drums which is held together with recurring patterns and ends with an intense emotional finale played magnificently by the orchestra. Jean-Claude Picard conducted this concert with dynamic flair and brought a fantastic cohesion between the orchestra and these three performances. A thoroughly delightful evening which was only mildly disrupted by some incessant coughing from the audience.

Reviewer : Zoe Gwynne

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