Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Conductor caught in PR spin

The PR machine continues to spin for wunderkind conductor Gustavo Dudamel (right), shame the critics aren't onside though:

'Love at first sight: that’s what we are told happened when the Philharmonia Orchestra first worked with the young curly-haired dynamo from Venezuela Gustavo Dudamel.

Passionate music-making, I rush to say, is usually delightful to hear. Dudamel’s fancy wrist work is a relief in itself after the routine stabs of some veteran maestros. But love can generate overindulgence. Bernstein, Prokofiev, Shostakovich and the exuberant Mexican Revueltas: here was nothing but the fizzy, the loud, and the propulsive, all turned extra frantic by Dudamel’s supercharged approach.

To be fair, sometimes Dudamel hit the bull’s-eye. Shostakovich’s Festive Orchestra of 1947, opening the concert, had extraordinary zip and sheen: this flag-waving piece might be an empty bucket, but painting it red and moving it fast is the only solution. The magic couldn’t be repeated at the end with the Sensemaya of Revueltas. By that point we’d been battered flat. Love is beautiful; but so is restraint:'
from Richard Morrison's Times review of Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra.


First Dudamel was spun as the unknown conductor of Venezuelan youth orchestras who just happened to have the same agent as Simon Rattle and the same record company as Claudio Abbado. Now he is touted as the child-bride of the Philharmonia. In fairness Andrew Clements over in the Guardian gave a much better notice, but he does say: 'He's clearly not the finished article, of course, and I don't think I want to hear him conduct Mahler's Ninth or the Missa Solemnis for a while yet.'

The sorry sorry fate in London of the over-hyped Franz Welser-Möst showed what too much exposure too early can do to a conductor. And ironically it was the Missa Solemnis that Welser-Möst brought to the Proms last year with his Cleveland Orchestra - to an almost universal drubbing from the critics. I am sure Gustavo Dudamel is really a very talented young musician. He just needs to become the finished articles by putting a few Brahms symphonies in the Caird Hall in Dundee under his belt away from the musical spin doctors and London critics.

* To read about a remarkable performance of Mahler's Ninth by the finished article follow this link
* I have nothing against the Caird Hall in Dundee. It has magnificent acoustics, and I remember a quite outstanding Shostakovich 'Leningrad' Symphony there many years ago with Paavo Berglund conducting what was then the Scottish National Orchestra. The temperature outside the hall was authentically Russian as well.
* Image credit - Askonas Holt . Image owners - if you do not want your picture used in this article please contact me and it will be removed. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
For more on the problems facing wunderkind conductors take An Overgrown Path to * No such thing as an unknown Venzuelan conductor - an article which incidentally holds the record for this blog of 22 comments * Review of now quite well known Venezuelan conductor *
Cleveland leave a bit of a Missa behind in London *

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I do agree with your succinct synopsis of the fate of many-a-conductor. Too much too soon applies to all areas of the arts, and it's truly when the path is slow-taken that the career is solid and respected.

Mr Duffy said...

sorry, you wrote "Shostakovich’s Festive Orchestra of 1947", is it differnt from the Festive Overture (1954)?

Pliable said...

Well spotted Mr Duffy. The reference to Shostakovich’s Festive Orchestra of 1947 was a straight cut and paste from Richard Morrison's Times review so blame him!

Mr Duffy said...

thank you. I didn't intend my comment as a blame, your blog is remarkably useful! :)

Pliable said...

Mr Duffy, not interpreted as blame at all.

I've just checked on the Philharmonia's web site as to what Dudamel did actually conduct, it was SHOSTAKOVICH Festive Overture but no year is given.

But the dates of this work are often given as 1947/1954 as well as 1947 or 1954. So I interpret from this the original composition was 1947 and the work was revised in 1954.

Can any other readers confirm this?

Mr Duffy said...

seems it was commissioned in 1947, and composed in 1954.

Pliable said...

The seven year delay from commission to composition reminds me that Virgin Classics are just about to release for the first time Andrew Litton's recordings of Mahler 4 and the Franck Symphony in D/Symphonic Variations - they were recorded 16 years ago!