“When a symphony audience is already on its feet after the first number on the program, cheering and shouting, you know something rather special is happening,” writes The Seattle Times’ Melinda Bargreen in her review of Thomas Dausgaard and Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s closing programme of their wildly successful Sibelius 150th birthday celebration.
The concert, featuring the Finnish composer’s Symphonies Nos. 5, 6 and 7, was fitting conclusion to the three-week Luminous Landscape festival that saw performances of all seven Sibelius symphonies, the Violin Concerto and select chamber works. In addition to Dausgaard and the SSO’s acclaimed performances, the festival explored the composer via a series of lectures, discussions, lobby displays and pre- and post-concert performances, and a special performance by Pekka Kuusisto that blended Finnish folk music with electronica. Bargreen writes, “This was a real festival. Many audience members attended all three programs, and there were impassioned discussions of the merits of the individual symphonies. On one subject there was unanimous accord: We’re lucky to have the chance to hear these ‘magnificent seven,’ and even luckier to have Dausgaard conducting them.”
Reflecting on the performance, she writes:
“After some brief and well-chosen remarks about the “new kind of synergy” these three final Sibelius symphonies create, Dausgaard and his players launched into a concert to remember. An extraordinarily expressive conductor, the Danish-born maestro commanded and cajoled the orchestra to explore every facet of these complex scores. No dramatic possibilities were ignored: the performances featured huge dynamic contrasts, delicately soft-focus woodwind flutterings, and bold brass statements. Most of all, however, the conductor and the orchestra clarified the musical architecture of each symphonic movement, and each finale gave the clear sense of that traversal and the arrival at a destination…
“Dausgaard said earlier that he would decide on the spur of the moment whether to use a score in the performances; this time, he did so only for the Sixth Symphony, conducting the Fifth and the Seventh from what is evidently a prodigious memory. Dausgaard also has a great sense of timing: how to hold on to the memory of a phrase with a commanding gesture, and how to take a little extra pause to extend the mood of a final chord before starting the next movement of a symphony.”