Thomas Dausgaard

Franz Berwald: Symphonies Nos. 1-4

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Half a decade after their first release on Chandos, Brilliant Classics has re-released Thomas Dausgaard and the Danish National Radio Symphony's recording Berwald's four symphonies. The only thing that has changed between the two releases is the price. The quality of the pieces, the performances, and the sound remain as they were before. The pieces, of course, are far and away the best symphonies written by a Swede in the Romantic period. Highly imaginative, brilliantly scored, robustly rhythmic, formally inventive, and thoroughly melodic, Berwald's symphonies rank right below Mendelssohn and Schumann's symphonies in the post-Beethoven/pre-Brahms repertoire. The performances, while very good, are not quite great. A skillful conductor, Dausgaard clearly understands the music and manifestly feels some affection for it, but his performances are just a tad too heavy and a shade too dark for the ebullient Berwald. Where the music should run, it jogs, and where it should soar, it plods. The Danish musicians do an adequate job of getting through the scores, but their playing lacks shine and sparkle. Chandos' sound was a bit distant, but clear and colorful, and Brilliant's sound is exactly identical. Of the digital recordings, Okko Kamu's, Roy Goodman's, Sixten Ehrling's, and Herbert Blomstedt's are better choices.

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