Thomas Dausgaard is a conductor who is making musical heads turn these days. In his native Denmark and nearby Sweden, he is practically a household name. In fact, he has been awarded the Cross of Chivalry in Denmark, and elected to the Royal Academy of Music in Sweden.
As the music director of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the Chief Conductor of the Danish National Symphony, he has recorded extensively with an eye towards bringing composers of his native land to a wider audience. A disc of Danish composer Carl Nielsen’s works was nominated for a 2007 Gramophone award, and a DVD of Danish composer Langgaard's opera Antikrist on the Dacapo label, won DVD of the Year at the 2005 International Internet Awards.
Dausgaard has begun to widen his range and has appeared as guest conductor with most of the major symphonies in Europe and increasingly, more in the United States. He will make his debut with the Dallas Symphony on Thursday with what promises to be a standout series of concerts. The program will feature legendary pianist Peter Serkin playing Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2 and Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 4, The Inextinguishable. In an interview, the conductor gave some insight and random thoughts about the concert and his path to the podium.
TJ: You are presenting one of Nielsen’s symphonies on this program. Was that your idea?
Dausgaard: In a way. Nielsen is not played much in the United States so there isn’t much of a tradition in the style. It is such great music that orchestras and audiences really enjoy it. So, when I am going to an orchestra as a guest conductor, it is natural for them to ask me to play one of the symphonies.
Why the Symphony no. 4?
It was originally supposed to be his second symphony, which is subtitled The Four Temperaments. However, both are great pieces and I am pleased to conduct either one. When we tour, the Danish National Orchestra plays one of his symphonies every time so all of them are old friends.
Have you always been a champion of his music?
Dausgaard: Well, I have gone through various periods. My first piano teacher was a student of Nielsen, so I started out with a close connection. By the time I finished my education, I had been oversaturated and had my fill of Nielsen. But my love of his music was reawakened by the overture to his opera Maskarade, which is part of the national heritage in Denmark but not well known elsewhere.
Did you always want to conduct?
No, initially I wanted to do a lot. I wanted to be a pianist and a cellist at first. I also wanted to compose. It was hard to decide, but I knew that I needed to concentrate my efforts. I said “goodbye” to these other things, however hard it was.
The Brahms second piano concerto is also on the program and with Peter Serkin, no less. Have you worked with him before?
No, but I am really looking forward to it. He is a great artist and the Brahms is a wonderful piece.
Are there challenges that are unique to that concerto?
Very much so. It has such a variety of musical styles. First off, it is a really big concerto―a super concerto. It is also a symphony―a super symphony. Yet, there are places where it is chamber music―a super chamber piece. Throughout all of this, it requires teamwork. It is one of the most collaborative pieces I know. Soloist, conductor, and orchestra all need to work together. But the rewards are great.
What is next?
Something completely different―the Verdi Requiem.
A favorite of mine. Wish I could hear it.