Brahms: Symphony No 3 in F major, Op 90; Hungarian Dances Nos 11-16; Alto Rhapsody, Op 53; Schubert: Lieder D 369, 541, 719, 778, 838 and 583 (all arr Brahms)

Reviewed on Mon 12 Nov, 2018

Having recently enjoyed Barenboim’s expansive Staatskapelle Berlin version of the Third (DG, reviewed on 17 October 2018), confronting Dausgaard’s ‘texture-lite’ alternative was something of a culture shock.

Thomas Dausgaard has already given us Brahms’s first two symphonies, coupled as here with his own Berio-like visitations on various Hungarian Dances. Having recently enjoyed Barenboim’s expansive Staatskapelle Berlin version of the Third (DG, reviewed on 17 October 2018), confronting Dausgaard’s ‘texture-lite’ alternative was something of a culture shock, the Symphony’s first movement (with repeat) clocking up a relatively tight 11:45 in comparison with Barenboim’s broadly paced 14:32. And yet, for all his relative swiftness, Dausgaard doesn’t miss out on the score’s abundant lyricism: for example, the Andante enjoys songlike delivery. Only in the finale did I find that the fast pace was spoiling the mood, especially the awkward – albeit brief – bending of the line at letter E (1:46), while the movement’s commanding forte ben marcato passage at letter I (3:28) goes for very little. Elsewhere, we learn more than we lose. It’s a version to have as a reference point when other options begin to sound too gluey. Brahms’s Schubert lieder arrangements, six of them in all, are mostly terrific, especially the dramatic An Schwager Kronos and Gruppe aus dem Tartarus (baritone Johan Reuter is especially good), and if Anna Larson’s Alto Rhapsody lacks the tonal allure of, say, Brigitte Fassbaender or Christa Ludwig, it’s sensitively sung. As to the Hungarian Dances (Nos. 11-15), they’re skilfully arranged, witty, and occasionally Gipsy-like (try No 16 in F minor). Viewed overall, this is a very engaging programme.
–Rob Cowan