Dausgaard and Swedish Chamber Orchestra perform Brahms

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COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Variations on a theme by Joseph Haydn; Hungarian Dances Nos 6, 7 & 5; Academic Festival Overture
PERFORMER: Swedish Chamber Orchestra/ Thomas Dausgaard
CATALOGUE NO: BIS 2253

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It has been five years since Thomas Dausgaard and his Swedish Chamber Orchestra recorded Brahms’s Symphony No. 1, and along the way they have been diverted by Schubert, among other things. Now that they have reached the Symphony No. 2 they indeed approach it to some extent with an early Romantic sensibility, as though it is something excitingly new; they play with a transparency that makes the inner lines sing but with a burgeoning weight and warmth that is always ready to be unleashed. Dausgaard is as ever a propulsive driving force, and he subtly brings out the unpredictable elements. In the first movement, as the development section reaches its height there’s a feeling of something seismic happening, of the music’s stability being shaken to the core, and so when the movement eventually finds resolution it does so expansively, with broad violins and a truly soloistic horn melody. Tension builds too in the finale, which has just the right touch of impatience. It’s a distinctive reading that hangs together well.

Alongside the Symphony we get the Variations on a Theme by Haydn and the Academic Festival Overture, plus three Hungarian Dances – Nos 5, 6 and 7; arranged by Dausgaard himself, which bring an element of mischief to the disc, they are full of vivid, mercurial colorific effects and are dashed off with flair. The orchestra doesn’t always achieve an ideal crispness, and spirit sometimes wins out over precision, but the sense of exuberant momentum that Dausgaard and his orchestra generate together is always winning.

Erica Jeal