The Swedish Chamber Orchestra with its remarkable music director, Thomas Dausgaard, made a triumphant debut Wednesday night at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall as part of the Troy Chromatics Concerts series.
Pianist Garrick Ohlsson was the sensational featured soloist. The concert was the first in the orchestra’s week-long North American tour.
The 42 musicians played with an exceptional level of ensemble, technical brilliance and musicality and a unified approach. But Dausgaard made what they did magical. He was so focused, so intensely inside the music, that his body language seemed to provide more of a direction than any stick technique.
The program, which featured Beethoven’s “Coriolan Overture” (1807), his Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major (1806) and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 (1855-1876), had a depth of musical expression that was more a chamber music experience than an orchestral one. Dynamic levels ranged from bare whispers to clarion levels, phrases had lift and expanse, and nuances flew by too quickly to assimilate. Everything seemed as fresh as if the ink were still wet.
The overture, which so often is just plowed through, was precise, dramatic, vital and urgent. It was amazing how Dausgaard got the orchestra to play so, so softly and then explode with sound.
Ohlsson was in fabulous form in the concerto and created a real partnership with Dausgaard, who watched him closely. It was a poetic Beethoven interspersed with more energetic, robust sections. The first movement was curiously slower than usual, but it allowed Ohlsson to set a gentle tone, to linger over the melody, and to not rush. His technical runs sparkled, and nuances were strong. The orchestra was with him the entire way, with perfect balances.
Ohlsson played the first movement cadenza, which is fairly long, with great style, pacing and drama. The short second movement was haunting and a prelude to the buoyantly festive finale, which was brilliant. The crowd applauded loudly, roaring its approval, and stamped their feet and got an encore: Brahms’ Intermezzo in E Major, Op. 116, #6. Ohlsson played it with grace and eloquence.
It was never heavy or plodding; tempos were a bit quicker in the opening movement, which lent it an air of urgency. Instrumental parts, such as the contrabassoon and plucking basses, that are often covered up, were heard. All the principal winds were uniformly excellent.
There was a sense of discovery about the playing and a marvelous level of anticipation beyond the musical sensibility. The audience thought so, too, and clapped so long that they got another encore: Barber’s sublime Adagio.