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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars
This is my second encounter on DVD with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, the first being the fine, though not white-hot, Nielsen symphonies set under the direction of Michael Schønwandt (Dacapo 2006), and my introduction to Thomas Dausgaard, now the orchestra's honorary conductor. The generous program of four popular symphonies (total time: 168 minutes) was...
Published on 4 Jun 2012 by Gerhard P. Knapp

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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sync problems
On my blu-ray disc sound and picture are not synchronised.
I have to correct it with the player software. It is really disturbing..
Published on 18 Jun 2012 by blurred


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars, 4 Jun 2012
By 
Gerhard P. Knapp "gpk" (Salt Lake City, UT, United States) - See all my reviews
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This is my second encounter on DVD with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, the first being the fine, though not white-hot, Nielsen symphonies set under the direction of Michael Schønwandt (Dacapo 2006), and my introduction to Thomas Dausgaard, now the orchestra's honorary conductor. The generous program of four popular symphonies (total time: 168 minutes) was recorded in 2009 in excellent audio and high definition video in Copenhagen's beautiful Koncerthuset, an outstanding acoustic venue. Already upon first hearing, I was more than impressed with the superb standard of music making, ensemble and leadership. The DNSO is a world-class orchestra, second to none, in all individual sections, in solo work and in finesse and unanimity. It is obvious that they enjoy playing with their then chief conductor and to a visibly receptive audience. Dausgaard is a highly dynamic and, at the same time, equally sensitive musician who approaches these staples of the standard repertoire with fresh insights and incredible élan.

The Brahms First begins with a somber, ominously bleak first movement, taken at a nimble speed and - as opposed to so many readings - not dragging at all. With the consecutive movements, the mood lightens until the finale leads up to a blaze of glory. This is not one of my truly favorite symphonies, but in the hands of the Danes I find it quite appealing, even more so than in Barenboim's very good recent recording with the Berlin Philharmonic (Euroarts 2010). Dausgaard's Dvorak Nine is simply fantastic: there is vigor, strength, nostalgia, a true Bohemian lilt, a lot of portamento and rubato, and every movement a joy and just right. Needless to say, the recording faces stiff competition (Neumann and Pesek despite dated audio and video, the fiery Dudamel in the birthday concert for Pope Benedict), but it is in a class of its own and might well end up first on your list of favorites. As can be expected, both the Sibelius and the Nielsen symphonies are played to the hilt: fiercely idiomatic, full of "Nordic" atmosphere and wonderfully shaped. For the Sibelius Fifth, my yardstick DVD performance is Sakari Oramo's with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra (Nobel Prize Concert), slightly leaner and grittier (this might also be due to the recording), but Dausgaard is just as powerful and dramatic, on the same level of musicianship, perhaps a bit more "romantic". There seems to be a minute or two of minor sound congestion immediately before the symphony's ending - but it could be my hearing. The Nielsen Third, admittedly an acquired taste where a lot depends on the reading, is the best I have heard in a long time: joyful, melodic but sharp-edged and, yes, quite "expansive". All in all, these are outstanding performances: you can't go wrong with this disk.

A brief note on Dausgaard's bonus "interviews" (monologs) in which he offers his explanations of these four very different works. He seems to approach them on a "narrative" or quasi-philosophical level, each as a journey from struggle/ darkness to light/ redemption (per aspera ad astra) with a few transcendental aspects thrown in. These or similar formulae - I am trying to get around the term clichés - may well apply to many of the great scores in the musical canon, however, if you listen carefully, his description of the purely musical events and developments is much more captivating. It also provides a glimpse at the subtext of his own interpretations which are consistently shaped in an enormous arc from beginning to end, always linear and with the final bar firmly in mind.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good performances and recordings offer fine overall value as a compilation set, 1 Jun 2012
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This generously filled disc contains four important symphonic works and is designed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Beckett Foundation's role in the cultural life of Denmark. In particular this recording is the result of the `Symphonic Summer project' collaboration between the orchestra and the Beckett Foundation. In the bonus section of the disc the conductor, Thomas Dausgard, describes his personal responses to these four works.

The key question that potential purchasers will be asking is whether this disc contains performances that are competitive with other recent issues both musically as well as financially.

The Brahms symphony makes an interesting comparison with the recent performances by Barenboim and Bychkov. Both of those are well respected performances and are weightier in their approach. They both build to excitingly powerful conclusions. This new version is fleeter and leaner throughout and this makes the work come over as a younger man's composition. I personally liked this very much and thought it appropriate for that of a first symphony, even though Brahms was far from being young at the time of composition.

The Nielsen 3 is a very fine performance with sharply delineated lines within the orchestral texture. In my opinion, this compares very favourably with the version by Michael Schonwandt with the same orchestra and which comes as part of a fine set of all 6 symphonies and in good sound. Both are good in their own ways, but the new performance seems to have rather more character and drive - just! The Schonwandt is an unbeatable bulk buy of the complete symphonies though.

The Sibelius 5 comes into competition with the particularly fine recent performance by Oramo and the Stockholm orchestra. That disc also contains an outstanding version of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto with Joshua Bell and starts with an incisive Leonora 3 Overture. Good though this new performance is, I personally prefer the Oramo performance for its extra weight and drama and also for its outstanding couplings.

The Dvorak 9 has strong forward movement as seems typical of this conductor. The first movement exposition repeat is also observed. The whole performance generates considerable excitement and is, for me, far preferable to the altogether steadier Maazel performance with the NYPO. There is, however, a strong competitor with Abbado's fine BPO concert which comes with a fine Brahms violin concerto with Shaham on top form. Although an older HD recording, the BPO sound remains totally impressive in genuine DTS 5.1 and the performance has similar drive.

This new recording provides excellent DTS 5.0 surround sound and stereo (not 5.1 as stated on the box/sleeve). The imaging is crisp and detailed, although I personally would prefer less activity and fewer close-up views of players and instrumental details.

In summary therefore, for my taste and ignoring financial considerations, I would choose Barenboim for Brahms 1, Oramo for Sibelius 5, Dausgard for Nielsen 3 and either Abbado or Dausgard for Dvorak 9. This disc nevertheless provides very satisfying performances of all four works and on that basis alone may well be irresistible for purchasers as it is obviously financially good value.

On musical grounds alone, and in my opinion, there are preferable alternatives to consider as above and therefore 4 stars would be my personal musical assessment. Factoring in financial considerations however, a 5 star assessment may be more appropriate. This fine tuning as to value has to be each individual purchaser's decision therefore. This review is simply intended to be a guide in the complex process of weighing up mixed compilations.

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Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:

Another Excellent Review, Ian!
Detailed, Interesting, Cogent, and Logical... (U.K. review)

I have not heard this. But you say, a fleetier version of a younger composer to Brahms 1st? Brahms was shaping his piano concerto 1 to be his first symphony, and composed or finished this one in his early 40s. I think he was done with his youth at that time, considering it was 19th century. Although I find all your reviws to be very helpful, including this one, it has encouraged me Not to buy this one. Thanks (U.K. review)

I thought that you might like to know that before I buy a recording I now look through all the reviews to see if you have posted one. Your assessments and opinions are invaluable. Thank you. (US review)

I particularly like your format of review. They give the prospective purchaser an idea of the style of the playing and relevant comparisons. They are succinct. Keep up the good work! (UK review)

I'm sure there are many other serious collectors, besides myself, who wait for your synopsis and opinion before spending their hard-earned money on new releases...
Keep up the good work!
Thank you (UK review)

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1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sync problems, 18 Jun 2012
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On my blu-ray disc sound and picture are not synchronised.
I have to correct it with the player software. It is really disturbing..
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