'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 *