‘He's the real deal, isn't he?" someone said to me last week after a sizzling concert in Gothenburg.
The young Venezuelan firebrand Gustavo Dudamel had just conducted a programme of Copland and Berlioz, in advance of a tour that brings him and his Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra to Britain for three dates this week.
Not only that, but he had got the Swedish players to let their hair down and swing with the best of them in a catchy Latin American encore. "They are very open to ideas," says Dudamel, beaming.
Dudamel radiates joy. When he says conducting the Gothenburg orchestra is "wonderful", he breathes a sort of sighing ecstasy into the word, his face lighting up. "They are like a chameleon," he says. "They can change colour, but always keeping their personality and the Nordic sound - clean and velvety. I love this."
Dudamel also talks about what it means to be a conductor:
To learn conducting is one thing, but in his case, I suggest to him, audiences and orchestras alike are embraced by a communicative quality with which he seems to have been born. "You can learn technique," he agrees, "but a conductor is a leader, a person whom players will follow.
You can be the best musician in the world, but the instinct to keep the attention of hundreds of people is impossible to learn. It's something natural. I think this is the secret of a good conductor."
That reminds me of something Brock McElheran said in his wonderful little book, Conducting Technique for Beginners and Professionals: "It's no use learning long lists of baroque ornaments if no one wants to play them for you."
As I said in my earlier post as well: Dudamel is the real deal--if you get a chance to see him, don't hesititate.