MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

And Still More on Dausgaard and the Seattle Symphony…

The first actual in-depth reporting on the disaster that has befallen the Seattle Symphony with Thomas Dausgaard’s sudden departure has just been published at Post Alley.

The formidable Doug McLennan brings powerful journalistic chops to a dismayingly complex story that appears to involve a toxic work environment. Many questions are left unanswered — not least because of the stonewalling he reports, which itself would seem to reinforce the picture painted of an institution out of balance.

I would also add that this story fails to give proper credit to Dausgaard’s predecessor, Ludovic Morlot. He played an undeniably important role in developing the orchestra’s current level of artistic excellence.

I rather like the use of “repotia” here — the same rhetorical device Shakespeare uses in “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…”: “Again though, when a new leader comes in, culture inevitably changes, and there’s almost always turnover among staff.”

So sad that the fallout from all of this will inevitably affect these amazing musicians for some time to come — just as we’re coming out of the pandemic…

Filed under: music news, Seattle Symphony, Thomas Dausgaard

Thomas Dausgaard Steps Down as Seattle Symphony’s Music Director

This bombshell has just arrived: Thomas Dausgaard is resigning from his position as Seattle Symphony’s music director. Here’s the official press release, which leaves many questions unanswered:

SEATTLE, WA – The Seattle Symphony honors Thomas Dausgaard, whose defining 12-year partnership alongside the Symphony comes to a close with the announcement today of his decision to step away from his role as its Music Director, ahead of his originally planned final season in 2022/2023. Dausgaard, who appeared regularly as a guest conductor since 2010 and became Principal Guest Conductor in 2014, began his tenure as Music Director of the Seattle Symphony in 2019. Dausgaard’s collaboration with the Symphony for over a decade has earned widespread acclaim, marked by innovative programming, championing of music by composers of today and Grammy-nominated recordings.



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Filed under: music news, Seattle Symphony, Thomas Dausgaard

Thomas Dausgaard Is Back

Even with the audience at Benaroya Hall well below capacity, the atmosphere on Thursday night was electric for the long-awaited return of music director Thomas Dausgaard to the Seattle Symphony podium. The menu was meat and potatoes — a Beethoven appetizer (Overture to Egmont) and Brahms’s First, both given high-energy, taut, muscular accounts. Curiously, the Brahms even turned out to contain some Beethovenian echoes beyond the usual ones.

In between came a virtuoso showcase in the form of Saint-Saëns’s Second Piano Concerto in G minor. The Italian pianist Alessio Bax was the sparkling soloist, balancing the piece’s flamboyant, impish, and lyrically touching dimensions with dazzling articulation and style.

I’ll be reviewing this and nest week’s concerts in a forthcoming piece discussing Dausgaard’s reunion with the SSO musicians. In the meantime, tonight’s repeat of the program is recommended. The sheer joy and commitment they radiate in making music together again are irresistible.

Filed under: Brahms, Seattle Symphony, Thomas Dausgaard

What’s Happening to Seattle Symphony’s Thomas Dausgaard?

Seattle Symphony just announced that Thomas Dausgaard, who was reportedly unable to join his orchestra for last weekend’s much-anticipated gala concert and comeback to live performance, has been “further delayed due to pandemic restrictions.” As the official press release phrases it: “Due to continued and unavoidable governmental delays, the Seattle Symphony’s Music Director Thomas Dausgaard is unable to join the orchestra for his originally scheduled Delta Air Lines Masterworks Series concerts in October.”

Why the “continued and unavoidable governmental delays” when other artists have successfully managed the paperwork and roadblocks? Are they really unavoidable?

Here’s the complete wording of the press release:

Seattle, WA — Due to continued and unavoidable governmental delays, the Seattle Symphony’s Music Director Thomas Dausgaard is unable to join the orchestra for his originally scheduled Delta Air Lines Masterworks Series concerts in October.

As Dausgaard’s work visa process continues to be severely stalled due to COVID-19-related travel issues, the Seattle Symphony has confirmed two renowned guest conductors as substitutes. Eight-time Grammy winner Giancarlo Guerrero will take to the podium on October 7 and 9 for vibrant concerts that include Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances and Arturo Márquez’s Fandango, a new violin concerto featuring revered soloist Anne Akiko Meyers. Meyers will be performing instead of the previously announced violinist, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, who also encountered pandemic travel restrictions. Music lovers can also stream the October 7 concert on Seattle Symphony Live. Then, on October 14 and 16, Stefan Asbury will make his Seattle Symphony debut for a performance featuring soprano and composer Adeliia Faizullina and her Tatar Folk Songs, which won the Seattle Symphony’s 2020 Celebrate Asia Composition Competition.

Filed under: music news, Seattle Symphony

Rites of Ecstasy: Thomas Dausgaard Pairs Knockout Scores by Scriabin and Stravinsky

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Thomas Dausgaard conducts the Seattle Symphony; photo (c) Carlin Ma

My review of the most recent program performed by Seattle Symphony under Thomas Dausgaard:

As Thomas Dausgaard continues along in his inaugural season as Seattle Symphony’s Music Director, it’s gratifying to see his intense rapport with the musicians expanding to different areas of the repertoire…

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Filed under: Alexander Scriabin, review, Seattle Symphony, Stravinsky, Thomas Dausgaard

Thomas Dausgaard Starts the Seattle Symphony Season

Tonight in Seattle, new Music Director Thomas Dausgaard begins his tenure with an opening night program of Carl Nielsen, Richard Strauss, and Sergei Rachmaninoff, with Daniil Trifonov as the soloist in the Russian composer’s Fourth Piano Concerto. I’m not able to be there for the opening but look forward to reporting on Dausgaard’s work with the orchestra later in the fall.

Meanwhile, you can listen to the conductor’s rapport with Strauss on the new SSO release, which includes an account of the Alpine Symphony from performances in June 2017 (which I reviewed here), as well as the prelude to the opera Antichrist by fellow Dane Rued Langgaard.

Filed under: Seattle Symphony, Thomas Dausgaard

Dausgaard and Seattle Symphony Take on an Early Sibelius Epic

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photo: Brandon Patoc

My review for Bachtrack of Thomas Dausgaard and the Seattle Symphony in Sibelius’s Kullervo:
On 28 April 1892, when he was only 26, Jean Sibelius unveiled Kullervo to the public. Its triumph established both his career as a composer and his reputation as Finland’s musical bard…

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Filed under: review, Seattle Symphony, Sibelius, Thomas Dausgaard

Thomas Dausgaard and Seattle Symphony in an All-Brahms Concert

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Thomas Dausgaard conducts the Seattle Symphony in a Brahms program at Benaroya Hall. (Brandon Patoc)

My review of last night’s program for The Seattle Times:

For a glimpse of the music of the future in Seattle, head down to Benaroya Hall this weekend to experience Thomas Dausgaard in action….

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Filed under: Brahms, review, Seattle Symphony, Seattle Times, Thomas Dausgaard

Thomas Dausgaard To Take the Reins at Seattle Symphony

It’s official: Thomas Dausgaard, the first name that came up as Ludovic Morlot’s possible successor, will become music director of the Seattle Symphony as of 2019. He has signed a four-year contract.

Thomas Dausgaard, currently SSO Principal Guest Conductor, was widely believed to be the conductor SSO management would tap, ever since Morlot announced he will step down at the end of the 2018-19 season.

My most recent review of Dausgaard in action with the SSO in an all-Strauss program is here.

Here’s the full press release from Seattle Symphony:

SEATTLE, WA – The Seattle Symphony announced today that Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard will become the orchestra’s next Music Director, beginning in the 2019–2020 season. Dausgaard will succeed current Music Director Ludovic Morlot whose tenure concludes after the 2018–2019 season.

Dausgaard has served as the Seattle Symphony’s Principal Guest Conductor since 2014. Additionally, he is Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Chief Conductor of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra (through 2019), Honorary Conductor of the Orchestra della Toscana, and Honorary Conductor of the Danish National Symphony, having previously served as its Principal Conductor from 2004–11.

“For several years, it has been clear that Thomas’ partnership with our musicians is grounded in deep mutual respect and admiration,” commented Leslie Jackson Chihuly, Seattle Symphony Board Chair. “His deepening relationship with the orchestra has produced some of the most electrifying concerts we’ve heard in Benaroya Hall these last few years. His work has been a wonderful complement to Ludovic’s exemplary artistic leadership. Ludovic and Thomas share many creative instincts which have shaped and contributed quite naturally to the exciting evolution of our music making. Thomas is simply the right leader for the next step in our artistic development. We greatly look forward to welcoming him to our Symphony family, and we know he will bring profound inspiration and warmth to our community.”

“Making music with the Seattle Symphony is very special to me,” shared Dausgaard. “Their inspiring artistry fuses generosity, team spirit, devotion and abandon. The orchestra is supported by an equally passionate board and administration, as well as a tremendous audience in the beautiful and acoustically stunning Benaroya Hall. I love the city of Seattle and the great natural beauty of this magical part of the world. So it is with deeply felt joy and honor that I look forward to becoming Music Director of the Seattle Symphony. My warmest thanks to my distinguished predecessors who took the orchestra to its present excellence — and to everybody now asking me to take the Seattle Symphony into the future.”

“This is a joyful outcome for the Seattle Symphony!” added President & CEO Simon Woods. “Thomas Dausgaard has evolved through his career into an artist of extraordinary insight, with all the musical and technical skills to translate his ideas into the most inspired music making. His relationship with the Seattle Symphony goes back over a decade, and for him to move from Principal Guest Conductor to Music Director represents a kind of organic artistic progression that is rare and treasurable. With his highly individual approach to programming, his deep history with recording and his experience as music director with a number of important European orchestras, he is in every way imaginable the perfect fit for our organization.”

Thomas Dausgaard’s close relationship with the Seattle Symphony began in 2003 with performances of Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony, giving Seattle audiences a first glimpse of his creativity and dynamism. Dausgaard’s first season as Principal Guest Conductor in 2014–2015 was marked by a three-week Sibelius Festival which celebrated the composer’s worldwide 100th birthday with performances of all seven of his symphonies. Since then, Dausgaard’s exhilarating and propulsive interpretations of symphonies by Mahler, Nielsen and Rachmaninov have inspired both orchestra and audiences, leading The Seattle Times to write, “The results are thrilling, with completely involved musicians playing for an unusually attentive audience, and a conductor who is a passionate advocate for music that is unapologetically beautiful,” and in another review, “You can tell by the wild cheering emanating from Benaroya Hall: Thomas Dausgaard is back in town.”

In Seattle, Dausgaard has made a point of exploring the “roots of inspiration” for composers and immersing the audience in unique, contextual experiences. In past seasons this has included local Finnish choirs spontaneously rising up out of the audience to sing Finlandia to great emotional effect during the Sibelius Festival, a chorus of alphorns in the Samuel & Althea Stroum Grand Lobby pre- and post-concert to demonstrate the sounds that Strauss was influenced by when he composed the Alpine Symphony, and the Portland-based vocal ensemble Cappella Romana singing Russian liturgical music to introduce Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Second Symphony to show the undercurrent of Gregorian chant that Rachmaninov would have heard as a child in the Russian Orthodox Church. In the current season Dausgaard will conduct two subscription programs beginning with an all-Brahms concert in January including the Haydn Variations, select Hungarian Dances, Liebeslieder Waltzes and Symphony No. 2, and in June he will conduct Sibelius’ monumental choral symphony Kullervo, presented alongside performances of traditional music by Finnish folk musicians.

A champion of contemporary music, Dausgaard conducted the American premiere of Snow by British composer Helen Grime in June 2017. Snow is part of an ongoing series of commissions in a project devised and launched by Dausgaard titled “Scottish Inspirations” with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Enjoying connections with many of the leading composers of today, Dausgaard maintains long-term associations with Magnus Lindberg, Per Nørgård, Bent Sørensen, Sally Beamish and Hans Abrahamsen, among others, and with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra he is currently engaged in leading an ambitious multi-season commissioning project taking its inspiration from J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos and featuring new work by Mark-Anthony Turnage, Olga Neuwirth, Anders Hillborg, Brett Dean, and American composers Steven Mackey and Uri Caine.

With over 70 albums to his name, Dausgaard joins one of America’s most recorded orchestras with its triumphant recent history including three Grammy Awards and rave reviews for many recordings on its own label, Seattle Symphony Media. Dausgaard’s projects with the Seattle Symphony include the 2016 live recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 10 (performing version by Deryck Cooke), which was named Disc of the Year by Europadisc and nominated for a 2017 Gramophone Award with the review stating, “this exceptional issue from the Pacific Northwest ought to be a game-changer for all concerned.” Dausgaard’s latest Seattle Symphony Media live recording of Nielsen’s Symphonies No. 3, “Sinfonia espansiva,” and No. 4, “The Inextinguishable,” will be released on November 10. The Seattle Times review of the Fourth Symphony from that performance included this description, “Dausgaard underscored the drama in the mighty outbursts from nearly every section; elegant descending passages in thirds, broad unison statements, mysteriously hushed string passages and a blazing finale.”

Thomas Dausgaard was selected as the Harriet Overton Stimson Music Director following a 6-month search by an 11-member search committee comprised of musicians, board and staff and chaired by Seattle Symphony Board member Paul Leach.

 

Filed under: Ludovic Morlot, music news, Seattle Symphony, Thomas Dausgaard

Thomas Dausgaard and Seattle Symphony Climb Strauss’ Magic Mountain

“I am the last mountain of a large mountain range,” declared Richard Strauss towards the end of his life. Thursday night’s Seattle Symphony program, led by Principal Guest Conductor Thomas Dausgaard, combined the metaphorical mountain-climbing the composer depicted in Eine Alpensinfonie with the Four Last Songs.

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Filed under: review, Richard Strauss, Seattle Symphony, Thomas Dausgaard

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