Passionate intensity from the BSO and Dausgaard

hadelich     R. Strauss: Don Juan
     Sibelius: Violin Concerto
     Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4

     Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, leader Amin Merchant
     Thomas Dausgaard: Conductor
     Augustin Hadelich: Violin

THIS was an evening of passionate, extrovert, no-holds-barred music-making, taking us from Strauss’s portrait of the great lover Don Juan, via the intensity and drama of Sibelius to the fate-defying excitement of Tchaikovsky. Classic FM have a soporific slot for what they call ‘relaxing classics’: anyone who felt relaxed by this intense programme wasn’t listening properly.

The conductor was the Dane Thomas Dausgaard. A magnetic and animated figure on the podium, conducting without a score, his whole body is involved in drawing the music from the players. The success of the collaboration was shown in the orchestra’s warm and spontaneous applause for him at the end of the concert.

The surging vitality of Strauss’s Don Juan overwhelmed the audience right from the start, with Dausgaard firmly controlling flexible pace and dynamics. Edward Kay’s oboe, and the chorus of horns under leader Nicolas Fleury made telling contributions, and the sudden and dramatic silence presaging the Don’s death at the end of the piece was heart-stopping.

Next we had a performance of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto from the BSO’s artist in residence, Augustin Hadelich. Brought up in Italy by German parents, and now living in New York, Hadelich is one of the brightest young violinists on the international circuit. His performance of the Sibelius concerto built in intensity throughout the three movements, always assured technically but building in emotional voltage. The virtuosity in the piece is always firmly embedded in the musical argument rather than being there for its own sake, and Sibelius’s distinctive voice was strongly present.

Hadelich’s encore was Paganini’s 5th Caprice, a piece famous for its incredible speed and difficulty. He played it with an assurance and nonchalant swagger that were simply astonishing.

After the interval, Dausgaard and the orchestra gave a performance of Tchaikovsky’s fate-haunted 4th Symphony which will live long in my memory. Until now, I have never heard a live performance that came close to Mravinsky’s legendary Leningrad Philharmonic recording of the 1960s, of which David Fanning wrote: ‘the orchestra play like a wild stallion, only just held in check by the willpower of its master. Every smallest movement is placed with fierce pride; at any moment it may break into such a frenzied gallop that you hardly know whether to feel exhilarated or terrified’.

Every section of the orchestra covered itself in glory, although the woodwind section’s contribution was quite outstanding. The orchestra followed Dausgaard’s demanding and flexible tempi unswervingly – I was definitely exhilarated, not terrified!



FOOTNOTE: News is just breaking of the BSO’s 2016-17 season. More of this in a separate article, but at first glance it looks like one of the most exciting and stimulating programmes they have announced in recent years. Explore for yourself on the bsolive website.

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