NIELSEN Symphonies Nos 3 & 4 (Dausgaard)
This is the only symphonic Nielsen we have had on record from Thomas Dausgaard since his 2012 DVD release of the Sinfonia espansiva with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. This performance from Seattle – where the Dane takes over as Music Director next year after five seasons as Principal Guest Conductor – presents no real departures from that account but gives us a fatter orchestral sound that doesn’t immediately lend itself to Nielsen’s brittle, direct aesthetic.
Dausgaard taps the Third Symphony’s origins in song and dance excitingly but, at the apex of the first movement, we don’t hear adequate grind as that rural rocking triad clashes directly with the urbane waltz that suddenly carves its way into the argument (nor the thrillingly alarmist woodwind trills it prompts). Estelí Gomez, with an attractive voice, sounds a little shaky in Nielsen’s Andante. The treacherously difficult pacing of the finale – ‘the easy stride of a farmer on his own land’ for one contemporary critic – is bang-on, an exact match for Dausgaard’s Copenhagen performance.
Imbalance can sometimes frustrate in Dausgaard’s Inextinguishable too, with a touch of breathlessness thrown in. The inner conflicts of the third movement come off rather better than those of the first and fourth; the latter is just a little too low-octane, its primeval horn calls – moments of intense release – recessed in a sound picture that could have used more immediacy given the fissile nature of the score.
Dausgaard finds a rare sense of rapture in the Poco adagio and the way he makes the symphony’s final chord resonate through to its end point (followed, as in the Third, by applause) is stylish indeed. As it is, Schønwandt and Oramo offer more on their recordings of both symphonies, as does Chung in the Third, though that might say more about an orchestra and engineering team on unfamiliar territory than about Dausgaard’s own Nielsen credentials.