Who or what inspired you to take up the flute, and make it your career?
I played the piano from a very young age, as my mother was a pianist. After a couple of years, I was allowed to take up another instrument of my choice. I’d seen a girl playing the flute in our village, and as a girly 7 year old its shiny appearance appealed to me! After that, the whole way of playing the flute seemed to be an extension of me… A natural voice for expression, which even at an early age was very powerful and something I found myself almost addicted to. I had a some wonderful teachers who encouraged me along the way. I think it’s important to have that support as a child, people to tell you whether what you are doing is special and worth taking further.
Who or what were the most important influences on your playing/composing?
My teacher when I was a teenager, Gitte Marcusson. She was and still is someone I totally trust. I didn’t listen to many flute recordings growing up, but my teacher at the Juilliard, Carol Wincenc, definitely had a big influence on my playing style. She is such a soulful player. Now, I find that it’s singers, violinists, cellists and all sorts of different musicians that inspire me.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Getting the flute taken seriously as a solo instrument. It can be so compelling and powerful when played really well, but a lot of the repertoire isn’t well known, and that can put people off.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
I am very proud of the two concerto albums. I am so happy to feel that I have put the flute on the map as a solo instrument, and brought repertoire that I am passionate about to new audiences.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?
Living in Scotland, I am spoilt with some fabulous concert halls which I get to play in every week with the RSNO. Edinburgh’s Usher Hall is definitely one of my favourites.
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
French flute music is magical to perform because of all the colour and nuance possibilities contained in every phrase. I also love new American repertoire, and the Rouse Concerto on my latest disc is just fabulous, such a powerful piece of music. With my orchestral hat on, performing any of Brahms Symphonies would definitely be near the top of my list, along with virtually anything by Prokofiev, who would probably be my desert island composer! Music that I listen to is a different story – a complete variety of styles! I love country, folk and soul music.
Who are your favourite musicians?
There are lots! I feel lucky to have worked with some absolutely terrific conductors. Neeme Jarvi is a favourite. He can convey a musical feeling to 80 people simply by a twitch of his shoulder and a special twinkle in his eye! Instrumentalists such as pianist Steven Osborne, cellist Truls Mørk, and violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann to name a few, all make the instrument secondary to the music. They are all totally natural music makers. I also once saw Beyoncė live in concert in Los Angeles…. She was so good, an incredible performer – 2 hours of non-stop singing and dancing, and not a note out of tune. She was flawless!
What is your most memorable concert experience?
A wonderful Nielsen Concerto with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra from a few years ago stands out…. I can’t even really say why, but I remember coming off stage and thinking, yes that was how I wanted it to be! Live performance can give you such an adrenalin rush, it’s fantastic.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Play music first and your instrument second. Don’t let the difficulties or limitations of an instrument dictate what you say with it.
What are you working on at the moment?
My album has just launched, so I am preparing for some recitals surrounding that. At the same time I’m making sure I’m on top of the orchestral repertoire I have coming up. We’re playing Petroushka this week, which has some fabulous but tricky flute solos! It’s hard work juggling the solo and orchestral playing, but I love the challenge of the two different skills.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Good food and wine, good friends, and laughing so much that it hurts!
What is your most treasured possession?
My beagle Ralph. He is the cutest, funniest little dog in the world, and always makes me smile after a long day rehearsing! If I could take him on stage with me, I would, but he would probably head out into the audience sniffing for food!
What do you enjoy doing most?
Other than playing, I love fashion – shoes and accessories in particular. I’d love to design some!
What is your present state of mind?
Positive. It’s always good to be positive!
Katherine’s new album of flute Concertos by Christopher Rouse and Jacques Ibert was released in May on the Linn Records label. Details and full tracking listing here
Katherine Bryan performs works from her new album, as well as music by Copland, Poulenc and Liebermann at Gray’s Inn Chapel on Tuesday 25th June. Full details here
Katherine Bryan made her concerto debut at the age of 15 with Daniel Harding and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London and later made her US concerto debut at the Lincoln Centre with the Julliard Orchestra. She has since performed as soloist with the Helsinki Philharmonic, Royal Scottish National, Halle, Nurnberger Symphoniker, New York Philharmonic and English Baroque orchestras.
Katherine Bryan’s full biography