On a number of previous recordings, the 40-odd members of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and Thomas Dausgaard have shed a new light on the Romantic symphonic repertoire, with performances described as ‘tight’, ‘invigorating’, ‘transparent’ and ‘thrilling’. Complete cycles of the symphonies of Schumann and Schubert have appeared alongside individual discs with music by Dvořák, Bruckner and Tchaikovsky, as well as a recording of Johannes Brahms’s First Symphony, released in 2012. The disc was named Recommendation of the Month in the German magazine Fono Forum, while the reviewer in International Record Review described it as ‘an account to make one hope a complete traversal is in the offing’. Five years later that hope is nearing fulfilment, as the team’s recording of Symphony No. 2 is released. Composed during the summer of 1877, which Brahms spent at the idyllic Wörthersee, it is one of his sunniest works, often compared to Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony. It’s followed by the Haydn Variations, in which Brahms was able to combine one of his favourite musical forms – that of theme and variations – with his deep admiration for Joseph Haydn. (Fortunately, the discovery that the theme in question, known as the ‘St Antoni Chorale’, wasn’t by Haydn after all was made long after Brahms’s death.)
The programme continues with other favourites in Brahms’s production, including his greatest commercial success in the form of three of the hugely popular set of Hungarian Dances for piano, here in orchestrations by Thomas Dausgaard. The disc ends in similarly high spirits, with the Academic Festival Overture and its rousing and jubilant C major coda.