Review of now quite well known Venezuelan conductor

From the Guardian's excellent online BBC Proms review resource:

"There were times when one wondered whether this year's Gothenburg Symphony Prom was jinxed. The concert had already hit the headlines some days beforehand, with the announcement that indisposed conductor Neeme Jarvi would be replaced at short notice by the much-hyped Venezuelan wunderkind Gustavo Dudamel. On the night, however, there were further problems.
Dudamel and the orchestra had only just taken their places, when the air was rent by a high-pitched squealing noise - a fault, no doubt, with either the Albert Hall's PA system or the BBC's recording equipment, though no one seemed able or willing to identify its source. It was over an hour before the offending noise was silenced.

When it finally got going, the concert was less than amazing, though whether its inequalities were due to rattled nerves on the part of Dudamel or the orchestra was hard to say. Dudamel has been compared to Daniel Harding and the young Simon Rattle - comparisons not quite justified on this showing.

The opening work, Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini, though frenzied, was short on passion and terror, while the orchestral ensemble was occasionally ragged. Mahler's Rückert Lieder fared better - an austere, reflective performance, beautifully shaped and sculpted. Anne Sofie von Otter was the mezzo soloist. Her voice is fraying a bit, though her communicative powers remain untarnished.

Sibelius's Fifth Symphony came after the interval. Much has been made of Dudamel learning the work at five days' notice: inevitably he hasn't quite got the measure of it, and a sense of caution led to moments of stateliness. Whether Dudamel is everything he is cracked up to be remains to be seen: we need to hear him under more favourable circumstances.
Review by Tim Ashley

If you enjoyed this post take an overgrown path to There is no such thing as an unknown Venezuelan conductor and read the comments in particular.
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Pliable said…
Aminovice, who is one of Dudamel’s many fans, has written asking why I haven’t featured other reviews of his Prom to give a balanced view.

The problem is, as far as I can ascertain after investing some time googling, neither the Telegraph
nor Times reviews of Dudamel’s concert are available online. If anyone else can locate them, or other reviews, please post the links.

So no hidden agendas. Music blogging is the art of the possible. The Guardian are the most web-friendly newspaper, and that is why their reviews are linked in all my posts
Felipe Izcaray said…
August 09, 2005


Gothenburg SO/Dudamel; NYOGB/Otaka
Geoff Brown at the Albert Hall/Radio 3

WITH Neeme Järvi indisposed, Friday became Gustavo Dudamel’s Prom debut. Two days before, this 24-year-old Venezuelan had landed an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon: a conductor clearly going somewhere. But Friday was also electronic feedback night: the night of the high-pitched hum (composed by Stockhausen, some wags thought) that mysteriously assailed the Albert Hall. For 50 minutes Dudamel was going nowhere.

Finally, just before 8.30, he hurled himself upon Tchaikovsky’s fantasia of love and fury, Francesca da Rimini. Every muscle snarled with tension; stand in the way of his baton and you’d be sliced in two. The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra took the whirlwind in its stride, though the best of the playing — and Dudamel’s conducting — came later.

Mahler first. Her face suggested that the wait hadn’t left Anne Sofie von Otter in the rosiest mood, but the mezzo-soprano’s delicacy in the Rückert-Lieder remained unaffected. She reached for top notes as you would apple blossoms. Here was ease and beauty, plus, where necessary, quiet surrender.

No quiet surrender in the accelerations and struggles of Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony, music that this polished Swedish orchestra knows inside out. Dudamel sailed through every twist and turn, possibly too neatly; in the finale I wanted more exultation, but we lacked nothing in those eerie passages when Sibelius doodles and time stands still.

The next night’s jamboree got off to a clean start with Paul Patterson’s four-minute foot-tapper Orchestra on Parade, built to showcase the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. Each year brings a different intake, but the NYO’s astounding professionalism never varies. Little at first sight seems beyond them. Certainly not Elgar in “nobilmente” mood: in the First Symphony, that characteristic Edwardian throb was always close to hand. Equally they took in their stride Tippett’s divagations and multi-plane twitterings; we heard the Midsummer Marriage — Ritual Dances.

Saturday’s one missing element was the interpretative fire that can take musicians beyond the notes. No conductor could be more genial and encouraging than Tadaaki Otaka, but something was still not communicated. In the Tippett it was rapture; in the Elgar, the large picture. But delights there were; delights abounding. And no electronic hum.
Felipe Izcaray said…
Dear friends and colleagues,

My name is Felipe Izcaray, and I am the Music Director of the Salta Symphony Orchestra in Salta, Argentina. I am Venezuelan, and do know Gustavo Dudamel since he was an energetic kid playing violin in Venezuela's youth orchestra system. Last time I performed with him, he was the assistant concertmaster of that orchestra, and this was on February 1999.

How he became a conductor is almost an accident. The founder of the Youth Orchestra Movement in Venezuela, José Antonio Abreu, saw him conducting in his hometown of Barquisimeto, during a music festival. Several months later, the then Youth Orchestra director, Gustavo Medina, resigned his post just a few weeks before an Italian tour. Abreu chose Dudamel to be the tour conductor, and proceeded himself to coach Gustavo, at the rate of 6-8 hours a day. Gustavo was 16 at that time, and did excellent as a conductor. The rest is history.

I have seen Gustavo conduct many times, and can call the attention to his charisma, and how he takes his profession seriously.

This is one of those rare moments in which the marketing side of our profession unites itself to a real talent. I believe Gustavo deserves the attention he is getting. Through the years he has maintained his easy and warm personality. He is now a DGG artist, a member of the big leagues, and still calls me "Maestro" when he sees me. He greets his old friends as equals, and still imposes his personality when he ascends the podium.

Does he have a long way to go?, I have no doubt. Has he begun that journey on the right path? ... You bet your wooden baton!
Pliable said…
Many thanks for all these very valuable posts which have helped paint what is a very complex picture. This story is not only about Gustavo Dudamel. It is also about the importance of music education, a subject evangelised by our own Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (I urge you to read my archived post A musician with teeth and the his speech which is linked to it). It is also about the commercial forces in classical music, which like an iceberg are 90% invisible. I have tried to make those forces more visible with posts such as Music-like-water.

I thought long and hard about the recent comment which said I was not presenting a balanced view of this story. To a certain extent that is a fair comment. This is a blog. One definition of a blog is as follows Blog is short for weblog. A weblog is a journal that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. Blogs generally represent the personality of the author or the Web site.

On an overgrown path represents my personality. And as my wife will testify that is certainly not balanced. You will not find mentions on this blog of composers ranging from Varese to Gilbert and Sullivan. That is not because they are insignificant composers, but personally they mean little to me.

The checks and balances can be added by you the readers via the comments and email facilities. This is not hopeless idealism on my part. The reader input on the Dudamel story has been overwhelming. I know some of you have put a lot of effort into transcribing reviews. That is much appreciated. Thanks, it has worked.

So please keep the comments pouring in to this unbalanced, but well read, blog.

P.S. It is an irony of blogging that the posts that are special to the writer sink like a lead baloon with readers. Would someone now please post a comment on my Peerless Potugese Polyphony post!
Anonymous said…
Dear blogger, indeed, you do not need to apologise for not being "totally fair". It is a futile excercise and also somewhat näive to expect every comment to be fair and objective. You have only to reed the different, contrasting reviews about Dudamel and his Proms concert to arrive to a clear conclusion: A critic exposes his inner, personal feelings about what he hears or sees. It is up to us to digest and make the best of it.

An old friend once gave me the answer to the mother of all questions (..."To be or not to be, that is the question"...). I don't know if he made it up, or if it was a borrowed thought, and I do not care, really.

The answer has ten words, each has only one syllable with two letters each:


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