Conductor Thomas Dausgaard’s ties with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra extend back to 2003, and it’s always a pleasure to have him back in town – particularly since he now holds the new title of “principal guest conductor.” With a music director who is gone for extended periods in Europe (Ludovic Morlot has another major post at Brussels’ Theatre de la Monnaie, as well as guest conducting engagements), it makes a great deal of sense to have an additional maestro with whom the Seattle orchestra and audiences also can build a relationship.
The wisdom of Dausgaard’s selection was certainly apparent on Thursday evening, when the Danish-born conductor led a highly rewarding subscription program that will be repeated twice this weekend. Two major works – the Beethoven Triple Concerto and the big Schubert Symphony No. 9 – found the maestro and the orchestra on the same page, with music-making of considerable excitement and finesse.
Three young soloists were on hand for the concerto: Russian-born violinist Alina Pogostkina (born in 1992), Danish/Swedish cellist Andreas Brantelid (1987), and Norwegian pianist Christian Ihle Hadland (1983). The performance featured a lot of compelling individual playing, though it wasn’t until the third movement that the soloists really seemed to be settling in together. Dausgaard provided careful support from the podium.
The lengthy Schubert “Great,” which Dausgaard conducted without a score, found him perfectly at home with both the orchestra and the music. Leaning forward from the podium, Dausgaard seemed to conduct from inside the orchestra, with an economy of gesture that gave way to demonstrative leadership in the more impassioned passages. At times he lowered his arms and stopped conducting altogether, and merely leaned his body toward the players to communicate his interpretation.
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Whatever he was doing, it worked. The Schubert was given an unusually wide dynamic range, with careful attention to the gradual development of crescendos. The strings provided crisp, incisive playing (particularly in the Scherzo movement); there were a few brass intonation problems, but overall quality of orchestral sound was imposingly good. The orchestra seemed “on the alert,” with players unusually engaged and responsive. All these are good signs.
Known particularly for his interpretations of Scandinavian repertoire, Dausgaard will be back in Seattle for three weeks each season (starting with 2014-15). Judging from the success of the current program, his appointment is excellent news for this region’s music lovers.
Melinda Bargreen also reviews concerts for 98.1 Classical KING FM. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.