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Monday, March 31, 2008

More on Dudamel

Some of you may remember my post about Gustavo Dudamel, the Venezuelan sensation.

Here links to two articles, one about his concert with the San Francisco Symphony, another about his first appearance with the LA Phil after being named Artistic Director.

From the Orange County Register:

The music seems to be explained to the listener in a Dudamel performance, and perhaps digested too. He does the work so you don't have to.

Vulgarity doesn't enter into it. There doesn't seem to be an ounce of cynicism in the dimpled Dudamel. He conducts with a smile on his face, soaking it all in, enjoying it to the maximum. The Berlioz was all there, its breathless expressivity, its graceful lilts, its weird instrumental effects and polyrhythms, its outlandish bombast.

In his signals, he'll do whatever it takes. Friday, one witnessed double-handed ax slams, saber jabs, swaying hips, spread eagles, and, head down, whipping the horse to the Kentucky Derby win by a nose. He was also airborne more than any conductor I have seen. If Pierre Monteux (whose student, Sir Neville Marriner, was in the audience to see the phenom for the first time) once admonished conductors to "never conduct for the audience," Dudamel missed the memo.

His approach may take some time for the Philharmonic to get used to. The orchestra answered his calls with enthusiasm, and played with tremendous rhythmic vitality, but one noticed more than once the strings getting lost in the onslaught of brass and percussion.

And from the San Francisco Classical Voice:

It doesn’t matter how much hype is swirling around conductor Gustavo Dudamel. He is the real deal, a great all-around young talent, who consistently delivers the goods, as his debut concerts with the San Francisco Symphony last week proved.

All of Davies Hall’s 2,750 seats were sold for a 10 a.m. open rehearsal, surely a first, and there was a long line of hoping-against-hope applicants for the nonexistent tickets, all but waving a finger in the air a la Deadheads in quest of admission. The cause of it all was Venezuela’s Dudamel, a 27-year-old superstar who has been conducting for a dozen years. He has made a huge splash around the world, and in neighboring Los Angeles where he will succeed Esa-Pekka Salonen as the Philharmonic’s music director next year. Last November he became an overnight idol locally, after leading his Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra in a sensational concert (see review).

Inside Davies, in spite of the great expectations, Dudamel was almost unnoticed as he casually walked to the podium, dressed in jeans, T-shirt tail sticking out from under a drab, utilitarian sweater. Without a look at the score (which later served as the resting place for the hastily discarded sweater) he launched into Stravinsky’s 1910 Firebird, and suddenly it became crystal clear what all the hype is about. Two unusual events that took place at the rehearsal illustrate the conductor’s prowess.

First, near the end of The Firebird, as the battle against the evil magician Kashchei is won, heavy, spontaneous applause broke out in the hall even while the music continued, like a deafening “Ole!” rising in a crowded bullring. Then, in an unprecedented scene, there was a standing ovation at the end of the Stravinsky rehearsal.

. . .

The music came from the instrumentalists, but Dudamel was responsible for the gestalt of the sound, by turns hushed, bright, assuasive, charming, glittering, and intense. As usual with him, Dudamel took no solo bows, standing with the musicians and giving them all the credit, which was richly deserved. It was the icing on the cake. Yes, no hype can spoil the Dudamel Experience.

Definitely worth watching for, if you get the opportunity to see him work.

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