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<<  -- 2 --  Robert Anderson    VIRTUOSO DEMANDS


Lutoslawski and Sibelius needed 20-minute breathing spaces to make their impression, but now orchestra and conductor could come into their own. The plangent weaving of clarinet and flute over the lugubrious trudge of the lower instruments set the atmosphere for Lutoslawski's Fourth Symphony in a cogent and multi-faceted performance [listen to the opening]. Here the virtuoso demands are spread throughout the orchestra, which played as if familiarity had bred nothing but excitement.

Stephen Johnson's programme note for the Sibelius quoted the conflicting views of Mahler and Sibelius on the nature of the symphony. There's room for both, but as an unabashed Sibelian, I feel Mahler cycles might give way to Sibelius with advantage to us all, to say nothing of time saved. Here Thomas Dausgaard dispensed with his score and presided over a performance that was deft and lightweight rather than recalling the rugged brow that seems the essence of Sibelius's features and music. Lutoslawski gives only metronome marks as movement headings; Sibelius eschews them and runs consequent risks. Things went remarkably well in the opening Allegretto. One of Dausgaard's distinguishing virtues is his ability to achieve a real, vibrant pp, and the first movement attained the 'profound logic' Sibelius required of a symphony [listen -- first movement of Sibelius]. The rest of the work was telling in each of its parts but did not quite add up to a convincing whole. Dausgaard is a conductor with remarkable gifts and a fine ear for balance and quality of sound. All that is needed now is an architectural sense based on the sort of study the professional round so rarely allows. He could be a great conductor in the making; meanwhile the BBC Philharmonic clearly relished playing for him, and did so magnificently.

Copyright © 16 August 2001 Robert Anderson, London, UK





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