Notes and Editorial Reviews
The Creatures of Prometheus.
12 German Dances
Thomas Dausgaard, cond; Swedish CO
SIMAX 1284 (2 CDs: 102:38)
Thomas Dausgaard is one of those conductors who sneaks up on your awareness from the periphery, like Neville Marriner. You haven’t paid much attention to him at all—then suddenly his recordings are everywhere. I originally heard several of the Nielsen Symphonies under Dausgaard’s baton a few years ago and was struck
by the grace and unusual lightness of his approach. More recently, I ran into a YouTube Schumann “Rhenish” he conducted with the full Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, which illustrated similar virtues of freshness and zest, combined with forward movement both springy and sleek.
Now that we find Dausgaard recording virtually everything for BIS and SIMAX with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, it becomes clear that freshness, energy, and a sort of nimble lyrical beauty are a calling to him. Everything he conducts dances. With 38 musicians and a fine hall seating 700 in Örebro, Sweden, (not to mention ideal microphone placement), I think Dausgaard now has the perfect vehicle for his talents. It is a beautiful sounding orchestra. He has recorded Schubert, Brahms, and Dvo?ák symphonies with them, and though I don’t believe the drama in the darker works by those composers avoids sounding slightly comical in aggressive moments, lyrical pieces such as the Schubert 6th and Dvo?ák 6th reveal remarkable beauty without sounding inappropriately small-scaled.
readers should look into them. Ballet, of course, is tailor-made for Dausgaard. And indeed, this CD is stunningly right!
I have reviewed Beethoven’s ballet
The Creatures of Prometheus
(Gunther Herbig’s fine account), but I must admit I tolerated the music more than pined for it. Dausgaard’s CD has made me fall in love with it. Though we are experiencing 38 players and Bärenreiter phrasing, there are no ugly sounds here. Those HIP-inspired blatty/scrapey moments never seem to happen. Yet full-orchestra accounts by Karajan and Abbado now sound lumbering to me, almost as though they set out to prove Beethoven graceless. Played Dausgaard’s light-footed way, one nearly regrets the absence of ballets by Bruckner! (Well, not really!)
Beethoven’s ballet music here reveals equal bits of originality and borrowing. One moment you hearken back to Haydn or the “Prague” Symphony; the next, forward to a hint of Schubert’s Second. A bit later you anticipate Berlioz’s choice of harp and cellos in
Harold in Italy
. A while before the flute has seemed to prefigure Bizet. And so it goes. Dausgaard has liberated this music from its nerdy awkwardness to the point that you actually notice what’s in it. The sets of dances and menuets are a greater challenge, owing a lot to Haydn and containing fewer forward-looking harmonic or rhythmic twists. But for the first time, they are fun instead of mind-numbing. These pieces were submitted to a competition and played as a special concert of dances. Nice as they are, the listener shouldn’t expect too much. I doubt the young ladies at the ball in the Schloss on the hill marked their dance cards to Beethoven’s music. But then, Hindemith never wrote music for Lester Lanin, either....
FANFARE: Steven Kruger
Works on This Recording
Minuets (12) for Orchestra, WoO 7 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Swedish Chamber Orchestra
Written: 1795; Vienna, Austria
Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Swedish Chamber Orchestra
Written: 1800-1801; Vienna, Austria
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