Thomas Dausgaard conducts Brahms – Symphony 2, Haydn Variations [Swedish Chamber Orchestra; BIS]

2 of 5 stars

Symphony No.2 in D, Op.73
Variations on a Theme by Haydn [St Anthony Chorale], Op.56a
Academic Festival Overture, Op.80
Brahms, orch. Dausgaard
Hungarian Dances, WoO1 – 5, 6 & 7

Swedish Chamber Orchestra
Thomas Dausgaard

Recorded May & June 2016 in Örebro Concert Hall, Sweden

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: April 2018
CD No: BIS-2253 [SACD]
Duration: 76 minutes



Thomas Dausgaard is rather impatient and restless with the first movement of the Symphony; all over in seventeen minutes including the exposition repeat. The lean timbres of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra may aid clarity – dynamic timpani certainly – but the thin-sounding strings do the music a disservice, and Dausgaard’s haste overlooks expressive largesse let alone niceties, and he even gets faster in the development section to hollow effect; stylish and committed playing though. Dausgaard’s unsentimental approach is prevalent throughout, although the slow movement yields somewhat and shows some sensitivity: somewhat, some. The Allegretto grazioso lacks for elegance, but of course the contrasting Presto section plays to Dausgaard’s adrenaline-rush, while the Finale is merely a romp. It doesn’t always have to be Giulini or Klemperer, but so much is glossed over here.

What follows, arranged in non-concert order, ending with the Overture, includes a sprightly and shapely Haydn Variations, which pays greater dividends than anything achieved in the Symphony, and Dausgaard’s versions of three Hungarian Dances have their imaginative moments but otherwise show him trying too hard to be different (Brahms also scored the same number of Dances; while others, including Dvořák, have ensured that all twenty-one have transferred from piano/four hands to ensemble). Finally the Academic Festival Overture in a pleasingly upbeat account, although where the horns should leap out and spiral, they don’t.

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