Assessing the Dudamel phenomenon

Posted on: December 8, 2009

“The classical-music world has a fraught relationship with fame,” writes Alex Ross in the December 14 New Yorker. People pine for the days of Arturo Toscanini and Leonard Bernstein on the one hand, Ross says, but fear the effects of fame on artistry on the other. “Surely it is possible for a classical composer or performer to attain celebrity without surrendering to celebrity culture. … Right now, all eyes are trained on the twenty-eight-year-old Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who took over as the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in October. In just five years on the international circuit, Dudamel has become one of the most famous classical musicians alive, his ascent heralded by TV profiles, front-page newspaper stories, and YouTube videos. … Although Dudamel has the image of an impulsive conductor, a wild man of lunging arms and dancing feet, his musical choices tend to be controlled, sometimes a little predictable.” And while “some breathless reports have anointed Dudamel the savior of classical music,” former Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen had already imbued the orchestra with a thirst for experimentalism, a legacy which Dudamel seems eager to continue, “taking on a slew of new pieces and adding his awareness of Latin-American composers.”

Posted on December 8, 2009