Four stars

AND now we must come to know, and follow closely,  the style, intentions, character and strategies of the BBC SSO’s new chief conductor Thomas Dausgaard, still, for a short while, with the “designate” label on his title, but soon to be the SSO’s musical boss. 

I was probably not the only person with that in mind when he appeared with his new orchestra on Thursday night.

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In truth, I thought his Beethoven Seven, in the second half of the concert, though we really needed to hear him do something like this, was a wee bit show-off in its hair-raising speeds, especially in the finale, where the law of diminishing returns kicked in.

Of course the SSO can play at that speed: but it was at a cost, and that was the clarity of articulation in the music, with lines blurring and rhythms smudging.

I suspect Dausgaard was out to impress: they all have something to prove at the start.

More interesting were the fresh and striking sonorities that resulted from the Danish conductor’s re-configuration of the orchestra with the basses moved to the back left of stage and the second violins shifted to front right. 

New, and enthralling, perspectives emerged. Is this the beginning of something?

Is it a feature that might be explored by Dausgaard in music of that period?

Or does he have a different, preferred layout of an orchestra, full stop?

But Thursday night really belonged to that wonder from Russia, Denis Kozhukhin, for his astounding performance of Brahms’ First Piano Concerto,  which was everything it should be, with the pianist’s structural mastery of the colossal first movement,  the real passion, emotional crescendo and catharsis of the slow movement, and the gobsmacking vigour and virtuosity of the finale. I was blown away.

Niggles about balancing set aside,  I must say that Dausgaard led the SSO in accompaniment with a grand sweep. Kozhukhin is back on Thursday, this time with the Second Piano Concerto and Runnicles.