“Casting aside an incidental curiosity – Swedish composer Albert Schnelzer’s absurdly cartoonesque A Freak in Burbank – what emerged on Thursday under the baton of Scandinavian Thomas Duasgaard was one of the most awesome and breathtaking orchestral performances heard in Scotland this season.

The vehicles were Rachmaninov’s evergreen Piano Concerto No 2, with the ultra-cool Russian Denis Kozhukhin in the solo spot, and the inexorable turmoil of Carl Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, The Inextinguishable.

In both cases, the watchwords were insight and revelation.

Take the Rachmaninov, a warhorse if ever there was one, and one that most of us think we know inside out.

Yet where did all these forgotten orchestral colours come from – sneak countermelodies in the strings, poignant comments from the horns, and a general sense that hidden in this score is a whole world of seething relevance so often overlooked?

Dausgaard took great pains to sharpen and define the textures, but it wasn’t all about detail. That moment where the big tune returns at the end was truly visceral, the journey towards it making its overwhelming point, heightened by the unshakeable Kozhukin’s powerhouse performance.

In the Neilsen symphony, it was once again a case of Dausgaard cleaning up a dusty old master to reveal a truly vital, super-clean work of art. The SSO responded brilliantly, delivering the big picture with spine-tingling effect. Re-enacting Neilsen’s original intention of having the second timpanist walk on mid-performance was a nice touch, too.

A great night all round. Let’s have Dausgaard back.”
The Scotsman, 26 October 2013

“Conductor Thomas Dausgaard’s ties with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra extend back to 2003, and it’s always a pleasure to have him back in town – particularly since he now holds the new title of ‘principal guest conductor.’

The wisdom of Dausgaard’s selection was certainly apparent on Thursday evening, when the Danish-born conductor led a highly rewarding subscription program that will be repeated twice this weekend. Two major works – the Beethoven Triple Concerto and the big Schubert Symphony No. 9 – found the maestro and the orchestra on the same page, with music-making of considerable excitement and finesse.

The lengthy Schubert ‘Great,’ which Dausgaard conducted without a score, found him perfectly at home with both the orchestra and the music. Leaning forward from the podium, Dausgaard seemed to conduct from inside the orchestra, with an economy of gesture that gave way to demonstrative leadership in the more impassioned passages. At times he lowered his arms and stopped conducting altogether, and merely leaned his body toward the players to communicate his interpretation.

Whatever he was doing, it worked. The Schubert was given an unusually wide dynamic range, with careful attention to the gradual development of crescendos. The strings provided crisp, incisive playing (particularly in the Scherzo movement); there were a few brass intonation problems, but overall quality of orchestral sound was imposingly good. The orchestra seemed ‘on the alert,’ with players unusually engaged and responsive. All these are good signs.

Judging from the success of the current program, his appointment is excellent news for this region’s music lovers.”
Seattle Times, 4 October 2013

Danish maestro named SSO principal guest conductor

Thomas Dausgaard will assume his post in the 2014-15 season, conducting a “mini-festival” of Sibelius symphonies.

Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard leads the Seattle Symphony Orchestra this week in a program topped by Beethoven’s Triple Concerto — auspicious timing, as the orchestra announced Wednesday that Dausgaard has been named the organization’s principal guest conductor for three years, beginning in the 2014-15 season.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Thomas Dausgaard to the Seattle Symphony family,” SSO music director Ludovic Morlot said in a statement. “He is a truly great musician, and I know that he will be an asset in further developing our orchestra as a world-class ensemble.”

Dausgaard, 50, appeared as a guest conductor for the orchestra in 2010 and 2011. He is chief conductor of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and honorary conductor of the Danish National Symphony. He is an authority on Classical and Scandinavian repertoire, and an award-winning, prolific recording artist with a remarkable number of recordings — 50 — in release.

With a chief conductor (Morlot), associate conductor (Stilian Kirov) and a principal pops conductor already aboard, what will a principal guest conductor do for Seattle Symphony?

The answer begins with the role of any guest conductor visiting any orchestra.

“The way orchestras tend to work is that music directors conduct around half a season, and guest conductors take up the rest of the weeks,” says SSO executive director Simon Woods. “Often orchestras appoint a principal guest conductor to bring a bit more consistency. There’s a limit to what an orchestra and conductor can achieve in a week working together, so what this does is provide the opportunity for a conductor and orchestra to grow together over a slightly longer period of time.”

In Dausgaard’s case, he’ll work with the SSO several weeks at a time, which allows the orchestra to plan “ambitious mini-festivals across several weeks, such as an exciting Sibelius festival that we’ll do in 2015.”

The Dausgaard-led Sibelius Festival, which marks the 150th anniversary of the Finnish composer’s birth, will include all seven of his symphonies and related events.

“For me, Sibelius is one of the most important orchestral composers,” Dausgaard said in an email. “His mastery is in the wholeness of each piece, the organic way his music develops — something he himself likened to the way a tree grows. With each symphony he takes us to another corner of his imagination. (Sibelius’ language) is sculptures of sound, of sonorities beyond just the combination of instruments. Being immersed in this for three weeks makes you listen differently, even to the birds outside your window.”

“Apart from his sheer prowess as a conductor, we are very excited that Thomas Dausgaard will bring a repertoire very different from Ludovic Morlot’s,” Woods says. “He excels in Scandinavian music — which is a nice fit for our community with its Nordic heritage. But he also shares with Ludovic a deep, natural affinity for core Germanic repertoire. This will be helpful and inspirational for the artistic journey the orchestra is currently embarked upon.”
Tom Keogh, The Seattle Times, 2 October 2013

“Those who have been tracking Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard from his earliest days pioneering slimline Schumann with the Sweidsh Chamber Orchestra, and tackling Nielsen and Norgard head on in Denmark, will have been eagerly awaiting his debut wirh the London Symphony Orchestra. It didn’t disappoint.

Mahler’s Sixth Symphony was the challenge. And, from the very first bars, we could feel the electric charge: the players’ ready response to Dausgaard’s fearless start in the eye of the storm, and the conductor’s own thrill at having such resources at his command. I hace heard more bleak, more ferociously despairing accounts of this symphony, but never one that swerved so dangerously between savagery and swagger.

This is the Nietzsche-saturated Mahler: the sense of an ‘artistic conquest of the terrible’, even while hurling oneself into the abyss. It was Dausgaard’s sense of the exhilaration of that struggle and that swagger that was so compelling. His body would reel back from the orchestral sound he’d created; then pounce forward again as the music’s own muscle lurched and twisted. Dausgaard was also quick to activate the surreal in this music. The finesse of his shaping of its bittersweet nostalgia collided with constant extreme changes of tempo and direction, making its emotinal fragility palpable. The forkes tongue of the trumpets, the single voice of the trombones, the brittle bow strokes of the violins all realised his vision with alacrity.

To programme Richard Strauss’s Burleske for Piano and Orchestra as a starter was a cunning ploy. Here, Barry Douglas’s fearless pianism and, again, Dausgaard’s delight in the music’s surreal collage made this rarity an irresistible danse macabre.”
Hilary Finch, The Times, 27 September 2013

“Another fine season for the London Symphony Orchestra looks inevitable after the brilliantly played Mahler 6 they brought to the Barbican on Wednesday night. With the assured Thomas Dausgaard leading the way in this furious, huge march, the band amply showed its Mahler chops with some scintillating orchestral sounds.

While the piece is often referred to as the “Tragic” symphony – a name Mahler toyed with but decided against – much of the time it seems angrier than tragic, right from its fierce, militant opening, played with stern precision by the LSO. Even the rhapsodic second theme, intended to represent Mahler’s wife Alma, is marked ff, and – especially if played as committedly as it was here – sounds only as full-blooded as it does unhinged. But all unfolds with a grim, concise inevitability: despite the symphony’s considerable length, this is Mahler at his least sprawling. His eyes were perhaps fixed firmly on that incredible ending, right from the start.

Most remarkable, despite some chilling tutti playing, was a single, sudden chord for woodwinds in the slow movement: an uncannily beautiful sound, perfectly in tune and yet filled somehow with all the rusticity Mahler was surely after. .. the focus of the finale was a thing of wonder. Despite this movement’s great length and apparently chaotic structure, it flowed, thrilled, enthralled.

Dausgaard may have let the LSO’s sound speak for itself, but that’s not to say he didn’t make an impression too: he cuts an extremely dynamic figure on the podium, sweeping and Romantic in his gestures … the results he achieved here in this Mahler 6 are impossible to argue with.”
Bachtrack, 27 September 2013

“If all classical music concerts were like the spectacular, all-Beethoven affair at Koerner Hall on Sunday afternoon, people would mob box offices and clamour for standing room. This was a truly special occasion …

Dausgaard … worked at shaping and encouraging a dialogue and cohesion from different members of the orchestra — all with the aim of highlighting the lighting-fast changes of mood, tempo and dynamics in Beethoven’s scores.”
John Terauds, Musical Toronto, 28 April 2013

“Dausgaard’s indefatigable energy in combination with an orchestra at the peak of its powers made for an awesome musical experience, fully realising the composer’s fascination with all the textural and dynamic possibilities offered by the setting. Every detail was exquisitely rendered, from the intricately layered sectional work to the triumphant tutti climaxes, with the gorgeously sustained rise and fall of the chorale-inspired second movement a particular highlight.”
Martin Kershaw, Glasgow Herald, 18 March 2013

“Dausgaard, who has been impressing Toronto Symphony audiences as a visiting conductor for 11 years now, demonstrated supreme control over this complex music.
His greatest accomplishment was in keeping the interpretation balanced on Mahler’s knife edge between hope and despair and being able to depict torment as convincingly as sweet repose.”
John Terauds, Toronto Star, 23 January 2013

“I love Thomas Dausgaard’s work and his interpretation here is exactly what is called for. I love the no-nonsense treatment of the Romeo and Juliet overture, which does not sound hackneyed here. I love the playing of the members of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.”
Brian Reinhart,, December 2012

“After the interval, Dausgaard led a most involving Tchaikovsky ‘Pathétique’ … this was the birth of a fine performance, with strings articulating marvelously at speed; the second subject of the first movement was beautifully shaded. Occasionally one was reminded that this is the orchestra to which Günter Wand was linked in so many fine performances of mainstream repertoire. That Dausgaard can inspire his players to touch upon this history in our memory banks is praise indeed. His reading had a palpable sense of flow; in fact everything about his reading oozed intelligence. The second movement was cheekily phrased yet cogently paced and structured; the third was full of dramatic strokes … The finale was shot through with a fateful inevitability. All credit to the brass (beautifully creamy trombones and tuba), but the real credit goes to Dausgaard and his evident rapport with the BBCSO. May he often return.”
Colin Clarke, Seen and Heard International, 29 July 2012

“Dausgaard is a master at drawing dynamic fine lines, he directed his musicians in the art of whispering musically.”
Alexander Dick, Badische Zeitung, 21 April 2012

Thomas Dausgaard was a powerfully effective guide on this spiritual journey [through Sibelius’ Symphony No.4] and the Orchestra responded admirably to the incisive intelligence and controlled expressiveness of his conducting.

Thomas Dausgaard’s conducting balanced the demands of the local musical moment with a thorough sense of the greater containing arc of the work and his continuity of line, and without the slightest sense of any detail ever being overlooked in the process, was very impressive. This was a sombre, beautiful and moving reading of the work.”
Glyn Pursglove, Seen and Heard International, 23 February 2012

“As a visually exciting conductor with a clearly excellent rapport with the orchestra, the reasons for Dausgaard’s critical acclaim are obvious. The rapturous applause of the audience was well deserved.”
Verity Quaite,, 27 February 2012

“Through his enthusiasm, his boundless energy and different approach to the classics Thomas Dausgaard has moved the Danish National Symphony Orchestra forward to the front rows among the European orchestras.”
Politiken 9 November 2011

“The beauty of Thomas Dausgaard’s gestures and his confidence in the orchestra gave his direction intelligence and sensitivity.

Leading us all, musicians and audience, in his clear vision, Thomas Dausgaard offered Bruckner [in his Symphony No.4] the power, invincible force and dazzling beauty that he misses in many outdated versions.”
Hubert Stoecklin,, 30 November 2011

“Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard, who directed this work (Bruckner Symphony No 7) with the Seattle Symphony this week, gave it a masterly interpretation with myriad colors and shadings that gave the huge work life and energy, even lightness at times. The orchestra responded to his insightful direction with excellent playing …”
Philippa Kiraly, Seattle Times, 4 November 2011

“Dausgaard led a performance that realized the symphony’s potential in liberal measure. What was most impressive was his ability to dally when the expressive needs of a particular passage demanded it, yet without ever impairing the natural and logical progression of the music from one idea to another – and that combination, after all, is surely what symphonic form is all about. He drew superbly poised playing from the orchestr …”
Bernard Jacobson, Seen and Heard International (Music Web International), 3 November 2011

“(Brahms’ Fourth Symphony) sprang forward with inner energy and with a sense of confident clarity and balance to the sound, reaching its points of emphasis and apogee with logic and sweeping inevitability.”
Peter McCallum, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 July 2011

“… Dausgaard and the players burnished each detail [in Debussy’s La Mer] with the utmost care …”

“Through careful control of dynamics and pace over [Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony’s] two movements, they created a shape that was gripping, lucid and utterly absorbing.”
Peter McCallum, Sydney Morning Herald, 22 July 2011

“Dausgaard is a renowned Nielsen interpreter and it showed in his intricate grasp of the [Fifth] symphony’s structural complexity…a superbly executed performance.”
Murray Black, The Australian, 22 July 2011

“Dausgaard’s interpretation [of Debussy’s La Mer] was exemplary.”
James McCarthy,, 25 July 2011

“Never a dull moment in extraordinary NACO concert”

“From the opening measures it was clear that this would be no ordinary performance [of Sibelius’ First Symphony]… uncovering the rugged wonders of the Sibelian sound world.”
Richard Todd, The Ottawa Citizen, 26 May 2011

“Dasugaard has a hand for such dramatic art…Dausgaard is able to unleash soundwaves yet also play with the different shades of stillness.

“Thomas Dausgaard skilfully plays with the dynamic intricacies and gives Bruckner [ in his Symphony No.2 ] his own kind of elegance.
Leipziger Volkszeitung, 18 April 2011

“A standing ovation was also given to the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and Thomas Dausgaard – and that was only too right. This version of Brahms’ Symphony No.1 was characterized by exciting tempos…and additionally an orchestra sound that was both transparent and full of warmth.”
Jutta Rinas, Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, 7 March 2011

“Thomas Dausgaard is an extremely charismatic conductor, from whom radiates an aura of energy, and the musicians instinctively know what colours he wants from them.”
Neue Presse, 7 March 2011

“Thomas Dausgaard was an amazing character to watch throughout the Sibelius [Symphony No.7]…the results were both drama and clarity.”
Daniel Hathaway,, March 2011

“In a compelling debut with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Danish conductor brought all kinds of special insight and passion to bear on works by his Scandinavian brethren … Unpacking a work of stunning density Dausgaard derived maximum impact from every second of the single movement that is the composer’s last published symphony (Sibelius Symphony no. 7). Somehow, within its 22 minutes, he and the orchestra managed to traverse a vast emotional span.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer 18 February 2011

“Dausgaard here renewed the level of intensity … for a heady, exhilarating performance of a work [Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony] that is both stormy and beautiful.”
Wayne Lee Gay,, 28January 2011

“… an almost supernaturally inspired rendition of Verdi’s massive Requiem … Dausgaard, again proved a striking presence on the podium, shrewdly balancing intelligence and emotion in his musical choices. With intensity and fastidious attention to detail, he articulated each phrase, sustained each chord for maximum effect. His absolute command of the vast forces was impressive elicting responsive, vivid playing throughout the orchestra …”
Houston Chronicle 21 January 2011

“He has a focus and intensity that is rare, pulling a dynamic range from the orchestra that thrilled audiences.”
Joel Luks,, 22 January 2011

“Danish Maestro Thomas Dausgaard has a knack for capturing the core of any music he conducts.”
The Toronto Star 20 Dec 2010

“So spiritual, intense and present. Tchaikovsky’s fourth, as it has never been heard before.”
Jyllands-Posten 18 Dec 2010 / Danish National Symphony Orchestra

“The expressive and attentive conductor Thomas Dausgaard…creating an immediately full-toned, taut interaction between strings and woodwind …”
5* Review, Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post, 9 December 2010

“The finale [of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.5 in E-flat major] was galvanizing, with just the right amount of adrenalin to cause audience members to leap to their feet at the cutoff…one of the most thrilling I’ve ever heard.”
Janelle Gelfand,, November 2010

“Dausgaard, who conducted the Haydn without a baton, delivered a riveting, expressive and memorable Bruckner…”             
L.H. Tiffany Hsieh, La Scena Musicale, October 2010

“The explosive directness and rhythmical verve in the transparent web of voices which the brilliant animator Dausgaard achieved with his Swedish Chamber orchestra, made this Beethoven Seven a shattering experience …”

“A storm of cheering broke out, which seemed almost as  tenacious and tireless as the musical eruptions of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.”
Walter Weidringer, Die Presse, 30 August 2010

“Dausgaard probed its erratic structure and jolting mood swings with psychotherapeutic understanding.”
Tim Ashley, The Guardian, August 2010

“Dausgaard made a very persuasive argument … bringing vitality and an almost frenetic and uncertain quality to the exuberant sections of the scherzo and made the trio passages moments of calm.”
Alexander Campbell,, August 2010

“More riveting than the music itself was the sight of the orchestra’s Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard, moulding the rhythmic profile of each phrase as if it were putty. He has a wonderful way of bringing out the tension in a phrase, the way it pulls back or pushes forward against the surface rhythm.”
Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph,  August 2010

“Thomas Dausgaard shaped an entire evening, not just the individual works contained therein, and created a cohesive, exciting and deeply satisfying event.”
Rick Jones, The Tablet, August 2010

“The Fifth Symphony by Sibelius, was impressively sculpted by Dausgaard and exhilaratingly played.”
Geoffrey Norris, The Telegraph, 13 August 2010

“The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has probably never sounded better than in Wednesday night’s opening performance of the third and final program in its Sibelius Festival, led by visiting Danish Conductor Thomas Dausgaard…The final work Sibelius Symphony No 7 stretched out like a drawing made up of a single line that imperceptibly changed colour and weight, as if by magic.”
The Toronto Star 21 April, 2010

“Conducting completely from memory, Dausgaard crafted impressive musical sculptures at once monumental and intimately personal.”
* * * * John Terauds, The Toronto Star, 1h April 2010

“The Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Sibelius Festival opened brilliantly Wednesday under Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard, who incited the orchestra to a near riot of extraordinary playing.” He gave the audience at once glittering, ice-etched blueprints of the great Finnish composer’s First and Second Symphonies, and an immersion in the vaulting passions that had inspired them. Dausgaard brought both symphonies to vivid life, inspiring the players with a fresh sense of their worth.“
Ken Winters,
The Globe and Mail 26 April 2010

“In my years of listening to the (Toronto Symphony) orchestra, I have never heard them play with such care, such passion, such character, and with such accuracy … Much of the cause of this excellence must be laid directly at the feet of Dausgaard. He is a fabulous conductor. An arch musician.”
Audiophilia 14 April 2010

“Dausgaard conducted the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra with outstanding intelligence and conviction … Those lucky enough to be there will remember this evening for years to come.”
Basingstoke Gazette, February 2010

“Dausgaaard directs a thrilling performance (Brahms First)  … Sibelius Fifith is superb, especially the first movement which towards the end accelerates more excitingly than I’ve heard in years. Tempo relations are thoughtfully negotiated and the tension doesn’t let up for a single movement. Nor does it in the New World Symphony … The Scherzo has fire to spare and the finale confirms that sense of “longing” that Dausgaard sees as central to the sense and feeling of the symphony. One gleans from what he says (in filmed interview accompanying the performances) that music’s emotional climate is very important to him. But watching and listening confirms that, although he conducts from his heart, he has a strong intelligence guiding him. There aren’t too many conductors around today who balance those crucial values as successfully as he does.”
Rob Cowan, Gramophone, September 2012

“These days, every conductor with aspirations to greatness wants to record Bruckner’s symphonies, but few have done it with Dausgaard’s level of insight and purpose.”
John Terauds, Toronto Star, 10 January 2011

“A pairing as familiar as the “Unfinished” and “Great” C major symphonies must yield fresh perspectives if it is to justify its place in the catalogue. Dausgaard, conducting the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, offers consistently bracing accounts … the rhythmic panache Dausgaard finds in the Scherzo of the Ninth Symphony is especially invigorating.
Andrew Clark, Financial Times, 1 May 2010

“Listening to this disc, the last in Thomas Dausgaard’s estimable chamber orchestra series, is rather like taking an obstacle course in a small, highly maneuverable compact car. You feel every single bump along the way, but oh what a ride! This could be close to being the most thrilling Schumann symphony series on the market.”
Steven E. Ritter, Fanfare

“The closing minutes here just makes you think “Bravo Beethoven!” If that was Dausgaard’s intention, then he and his orchestra have succeeded, in spades.”
Paul Ingram, Fanfare

“No other living symphonist could have reaffirmed the genre’s age-old principles by so purposefully reinventing them. This disc sets a new standard for the interpretation of his orchestral music.”
International Record Review

“This is without doubt the finest collection of Nielsen’s short orchestral works currently available. It is perfectly played, brilliantly conducted and superbly recorded in stereo and SACD formats … Everything sounds fresh and new”.
Arkiv Music

“Thomas Dausgaard is working his way through an authoritative new Langgaard cycle with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Choir … Mr. Dausgaard’s keen advocacy elicits polished, persuasive accounts that live up to Langgaard’s motto: ‘Long Live Beauty’.
New York Times

“In short, if you’ve been collecting this excellent series then you need this disc. The performances are uniformly outstanding, beautifully played, and excitingly conducted by Thomas Dausgaard, and the sonics are terrific.