Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard leads the Seattle Symphony Orchestra this week in a program topped by Beethoven’s Triple Concerto — auspicious timing, as the orchestra announced Wednesday that Dausgaard has been named the organization’s principal guest conductor for three years, beginning in the 2014-15 season.
“I’m thrilled to welcome Thomas Dausgaard to the Seattle Symphony family,” SSO music director Ludovic Morlot said in a statement. “He is a truly great musician, and I know that he will be an asset in further developing our orchestra as a world-class ensemble.”
Dausgaard, 50, appeared as a guest conductor for the orchestra in 2010 and 2011. He is chief conductor of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and honorary conductor of the Danish National Symphony. He is an authority on Classical and Scandinavian repertoire, and an award-winning, prolific recording artist with a remarkable number of recordings — 50 — in release.
With a chief conductor (Morlot), associate conductor (Stilian Kirov) and a principal pops conductor already aboard, what will a principal guest conductor do for Seattle Symphony?
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The answer begins with the role of any guest conductor visiting any orchestra.
“The way orchestras tend to work is that music directors conduct around half a season, and guest conductors take up the rest of the weeks,” says SSO executive director Simon Woods. “Often orchestras appoint a principal guest conductor to bring a bit more consistency. There’s a limit to what an orchestra and conductor can achieve in a week working together, so what this does is provide the opportunity for a conductor and orchestra to grow together over a slightly longer period of time.”
In Dausgaard’s case, he’ll work with the SSO several weeks at a time, which allows the orchestra to plan “ambitious mini-festivals across several weeks, such as an exciting Sibelius festival that we’ll do in 2015.”
The Dausgaard-led Sibelius Festival, which marks the 150th anniversary of the Finnish composer’s birth, will include all seven of his symphonies and related events.
“For me, Sibelius is one of the most important orchestral composers,” Dausgaard said in an email. “His mastery is in the wholeness of each piece, the organic way his music develops — something he himself likened to the way a tree grows. With each symphony he takes us to another corner of his imagination. (Sibelius’ language) is sculptures of sound, of sonorities beyond just the combination of instruments. Being immersed in this for three weeks makes you listen differently, even to the birds outside your window.”
“Apart from his sheer prowess as a conductor, we are very excited that Thomas Dausgaard will bring a repertoire very different from Ludovic Morlot’s,” Woods says. “He excels in Scandinavian music — which is a nice fit for our community with its Nordic heritage. But he also shares with Ludovic a deep, natural affinity for core Germanic repertoire. This will be helpful and inspirational for the artistic journey the orchestra is currently embarked upon.”
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org