02-Thomas-Dausgaard4 SYMPHONIES:

Danish National Symphony Orchestra,
Thomas Dausgaard, conductor. 
C Major   710604,   one Blu-Ray disc or
                 710508,   two DVDs

This is an outstanding collection of four deservedly famous and favourite symphonies enjoying superlative performances in state-of-the-art, high definition sight and sound. Toronto concert-goers who were fortunate enough to attend some or all of Dausgaard’s Sibelius cycle in 2010 with the TSO, or the recent concert which included the Brahms Second Symphony, have a good idea of his ability to deliver performances that alert even the most jaded ears.

For some years, performances of the Brahms First Symphony have been, to my ears, tediously dutiful in maintaining that this is an august work to be performed as a rite. The opening tempo and energy of Dausgaard’s Brahms promises that this will not be yet another routine walk through ... and it isn’t. This is a sit up and take notice performance from the very beginning to the final movement, crowned with a radiant, jubilant finale, the like of which I’m unaware.

There is an introspective talk about each symphony on individual bonus tracks in which Dausgaard walks us through the work, section by section, suggesting in idyllic terms what the composer is feeling and attempting to convey. His observations are friendly, articulate and most engaging.

None of these performances is pedestrian and all four symphonies are approached with the same enthusiasm. The Dvořák has a wonderful bloom; broad and spacious and entirely as Dausgaard describes it. The Sibelius is an inspired performance. The fermenting inner voices in the coda of the first movement are daringly breathtaking; in the finale of the last movement, a valedictory, there is a sense of motionless resolution unerringly judged by Dausgaard. If you are not a Nielsen fan than this Third, the “Expansiva,” would be an excellent place to start.

Dausgaard doesn’t pause to make points that make themselves in the score. He has the rare ability to imbue an orchestra with a spirit and purpose that goes far beyond giving them tempi and balances. Watch his face in these performances and see how.

This set finds Dausgaard before the orchestra of which he was the chief conductor from 2004 t0 2011. In this capacity he may be familiar to some listeners from his very extensive recorded repertoire by the post-Wagnerian, Danish composer Rued Langgaard (1853-1952), a devout Theosophist, whose neglected music was resurrected with Dausgaard’s help. The recordings, all on the DaCapo label, include the 16 symphonies, tone poems, choral works, and a video of The AntiKrist (DVD or BLU-RAY), a religious mystery opera.

The symphonies on this 2-DVD set are concert performances from the Koncerthuset in Copenhagen that opened in January 2009. Designed by architect Jean Nouvel and acoustician Toyota Yasuhisa, the structure has four halls including the main auditorium, seen here, seating 1,800. It is the most expensive concert hall ever built, coming in at nearly $300 million. It is owned by and home to Danmarks Radio.

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