Dausgaard Excels in Strauss but why the ‘Slapdash Scurry’ in Schubert?


EIF logo







Edinburgh International Festival 2017 [4] – Schubert, Schumann, Strauss: Sergei Babayan (piano), BBC SSO / Thomas Dausgaard (conductor), Usher Hall, 8.8.2017. (SRT)

Schubert – Symphony No.8 “Unfinished”
Schumann – Piano Concerto
R. Strauss – Also Sprach Zarathustra

The BBC Scottish have great form when it comes to Strauss’s tone poems in the Edinburgh festival. Under Donald Runnicles, they did a great Alpensinfonie in 2012 and a marvellous Heldenleben in 2015, so this Zarathustra can take its place as a worthy successor. Thomas Dausgaard’s Strauss is still an unknown quantity to Scottish audiences, but he really impressed me with his control of the ebb and flow of this often unwieldy piece. The orchestra responded with some of the colour that made their previous Strauss so memorable, and even though the brass ran riot at the climaxes, it’s the strings that made the biggest impression on me. Divided up, they made a lovely sound for the hymn of the Backworldsmen, and swept up to an orgasmic height at the climax of the Joys and Sorrows. The spidery Wissenschaft fugue felt unusually enervated because it was built so successfully from the ground up, and the violins created an electric shimmer in their anticipation of the Tanzlied. The waltz itself was full of self-referential irony, and I loved the crystalline, translucent quality of the Nightwatchman’s Song.

Next to this behemoth, Schumann’s Piano Concerto can seem like a mere morsel, but I liked the way Dausgaard was trying to establish a genuine partnership of equals between the piano and orchestra. Oddly for someone who knows the hall, he seemed to struggle to gauge the balance between the two at first: in a reading suffused with gentleness, the orchestral solos were a little lost in the first movement. However, the reading built to a finale that had the agility and good humour of an acrobat. Sergei Babayan’s playing had a cantabile quality that suited the music perfectly, and there was a continual feeling that he and the orchestra were finishing one another’s sentences.

It’s a shame that Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony didn’t get a bit more attention. Dausgaard’s superquick tempo for the first movement (no “moderato” here) made the first subject sound even more edgy and nervous than usual, but the development turned into a slapdash scurry in places, and the gorgeous Andante felt like a mere run-through. It’s a shame nobody took the time to enjoy the beautiful view.

The concert was recorded and will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 12th September.

Simon Thompson

The 2017 Edinburgh International Festival runs until Monday 28th August at venues across the city.  For full details go to www.eif.co.uk.

Print Friendly


Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews


Season Previews

  • NEW! I Musicanti’s ‘Alexandra and the Russians’ at St Johns Smith Square, 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2017 Oxford Lieder Festival – The Last of the Romantics __________________________________
  • NEW! Roman River Music’s Festival ’17 in Essex __________________________________
  • NEW! Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov’s Return to London in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • NEW! Birmingham and Beyond: Ex Cathedra in 2017/18 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Glyndebourne Opera Cup and Glyndebourne in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Opera’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House Announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Cleveland Orchestra in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera Announces its 2017/2018 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet’s 2017 – 2018 Autumn/Winter Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

  • NEW! Katie Lowe Wins the 2017 Elizabeth Connell Prize __________________________________
  • NEW! Opportunity for a Rare Composition Masterclass with Gavin Bryars in April 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! ITINÉRAIRE BAROQUE 2017: TON KOOPMAN TALKS TO COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House in Mumbai is Restored to its Former Glory __________________________________
  • NEW! iSING! – International Young Artists Festival in Suzhou, China __________________________________
  • NEW! A Riveting Kokoschka’s Doll from Sir John Tomlinson and Counterpoise __________________________________
  • NEW! The National Theatre Dares You to Engage with This Show __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H