Music review: BBC SSO, City Halls, Glasgow

BBC SSO conductor Thomas Dausgaard. Picture: Contributed
BBC SSO conductor Thomas Dausgaard. Picture: Contributed
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THURSDAY’S all-Sibelius programme by the BBC SSO looked like a custom-built launch-pad for the orchestra’s chief conductor designate, Thomas Dausgaard, given his reputation in that sphere of repertoire.

BBC SSO: Thomas Dausgaard

City Halls, Glasgow

Rating: ***

On paper, it was a powerhouse of a trilogy, geared at sweeping us through the Finnish composer’s final three symphonies. In reality, we witnessed a slightly cold start to the Fifth, some casual motoring in the Sixth, before Dausgaard finally hit the highway with all cylinders firing in the single-movement Seventh Symphony.

It was in that final work that the first real signs of a visceral connection between the Danish conductor and the orchestra began to emerge. Before that, the Fifth Symphony never quite recovered from its shoogly opening chord, and an ensuing unease that left many of the raw woodwind colourings suppressed, and its final glorious “swan theme” undernourished.

Dausgaard drew a considerably warmer response from the SSO in the Sixth Symphony, as if an inspirational light had come on, the strings blossoming in the score’s intimate richness and purity. That cool, refreshing intensity formed a perfect moment of respite between the other two symphonies.

But it was the final symphony, with its enigmatic persuasiveness, its austere logic and inevitability, which provided the most satisfyingly complete statement of the evening.

Here, Dausgaard matched the macrocosmic with the microscopic, so that every pungent detail had a place and a presence in the awesome big picture. That’s what we want to hear more of if this new partnership is to live up to expectations.