This week’s Seattle Symphony concerts could be a sleeper hit of the 2009/2010 season. Thomas Dausgaard is in town to lead the orchestra in performances of Sibelius’ Fifth and Lutoslawski’s Fourth Symphony. These two 20th century view of the symphony bookend a 20th Century concerto – Rachmaninov’s Fourth Piano Concerto. Sibelius’s Fifth isn’t as well known by orchestras and audiences as his First and Second Symphonies. Rachmaninov’s middle piano concertos – the Second and Third – hold sway over most with their long, aching melodies. And Lutoslawski, for all of his inventiveness, has failed to win the hearts and minds of most classical audiences. But, take all three pieces together and you have a program that is intellectually and aurally exciting.
What a concert like this needs is a conductor like Thomas Dausgaard. In my thirty minute chat with Dausgaard, he impressed me with his belief in the three pieces on his program, and especially Sibelius and Lutoslawski. Dausgaard gives the impression of someone who likes to get inside the music he is conducting; he’s not just counting time. If anyone can win converts to Sibelius’ Fifth and Lutoslawski’s Fourth it is Dausgaard.
Our conversation covered a lot of ground. We talked about Sibelius’ symphonic narrative, Danish composers other than Carl Nielsen, and what Lutoslawski would have said in response to Mahler’s assertion that the symphony must be like the world.