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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bravo Gustavo

Dudamelmaia is everywhere. The Boston Globe said that he is the nearest thing classical music has to a rockstar. In 2009 Time Magazine named him one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World." He is often described as "the most dynamic young conductor to arrive on the classical music scene since the legendary Leonard Bernstein."

This week PBS broadcast the 2009/10 Inaugural Concert of the Los Angles Philharmonic. At the helm was their new 28 year-old Music Director, Gustavo Dudamel.

Last evening I caught the Great Performances HD broadcast of this inaugural concert with the LA Philharmonic, recorded by PBS for national telecast from a performance at LA's Disney Concert Hall on October 8th. It included the Mahler First Symphony and a world premiere by American composer John Adams (which I did not see or hear).

You'd have to be living in a cave not to have heard about this young conductor's meteoric success. Born in 1981 of modest means in rural Venezuela, Maestro Dudamel quickly rose to stardom and now leads one of the world's leading orchestras. It's a rags to riches story that makes everyone happy. But is all of this success truly justified? I'm a natural-born sceptic when it comes to stories of celebrity and fame.

However, after seeing Dudamel conduct the Mahler, I really am convinced that he is the real deal. Conducting from memory, he found ways to express every nuance in the music, and was extremely precise and clear in his direction. The man obviously is a natural, and not only has a clear conception of the sound he wants to relay, but has a formative toolkit of gestures to arrive at the intended outcome.

For example, his rubato in the Mahler was wonderfully pronounced and elastic - much more so than we usually hear. It's true, he is unabashedly extroverted in his expression, and the audience clearly gets an orgasmic sugar high from Dudamel's expressive ballet, but his approach is honest, visceral, and direct.

Obviously Maestro Dudamel does not need my endorsement. He's already a world-wide sensation and megastar. But for the record, I'm on board as a member of his fan club. I just hope that all of this success is sustainable, and that he wont lose sight of the music as he continues to develop.