Dausgaard Cancels Glasgow and Seattle

Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard has announced he is to resign with immediate effect from the Seattle Symphony Orchestra midway through his third season as music director. 

The news emerged last Friday, the same day that the BBC SSO, where he is also principal conductor, released a statement saying Dausgaard would not be travelling to Scotland this week to conduct the first in a planned series of concerts featuring Nielsen’s six symphonies.

Dausgaard has not been seen with the BBC SSO since the start of the pandemic, the first major casualty of which was his highly-anticipated Beethoven Festival in May/June 2020. He recently returned to Seattle briefly after a 20-month absence, only to issue his shock decision to quit there.

Dausgaard, whose Seattle contract began in 2019 and was due to run until the 2022-23 season, cited the pandemic as the underlying reason for his premature departure. “My decision to step back at this time when we have achieved such collective artistic success is the result of these pandemic times, where the question for all of us is central: how do we value our lives,” he said.

The same fears were expressed in the statement issued by the BBC SSO. “Unfortunately it is clear the world in 2022 is not yet as stable as we might have hoped, and with the continuing health risks and responsibilities we must all face, travelling at this moment in the pandemic is sadly not an option for me,” he explained. “It is therefore with enormous regret that I have decided that I cannot join you in Scotland at this time.”

An article on the Seattle Symphony Orchestra website also points to undisclosed “personal turmoil” playing a part in Dausgaard’s extended self-confinement in Denmark during the pandemic.

The announcement will come as a blow to the BBC SSO for whom Dausgaard’s Nielsen series was effectively his swan song before leaving his Glasgow-based post this summer. The English conductor Geoffrey Paterson will step in to conduct this Thursday’s programme, which remains unchanged with the world premiere of Erica Fox’s new BBC commission David Spielt vor Saul (with pianist Julian Jacobson), Bartok’s Divertimento and Nielsen’s Third Symphony. 

Due to the new Covid restrictions over Christmas, the BBC SSO had suspended ticket sales for Thursday’s concert at Glasgow City Halls. It has now confirmed that the concert will go ahead and ticket holders will be notified.

Meanwhile, the SSO’s search for a successor to Dausgaard is under way.