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.