The Future of Conducting?

Gustavo Dudamel, the young Venezuelan conductor who is generating a great deal of international attention these days, made his Canadian debut this week with the orchestra. Over the five days he was in Ottawa, he generated more buzz than anyone I’ve encountered.Gustavo is the product of Venezuela’s phenomenal system of state-funded youth orchestras. Roughly 250,000 children have been given instruments and participate in dozens and dozens of youth orchestras. This social experiment has been a great success – another musician from “The System” recently became the youngest member of the Berlin Philharmonic at the tender age of 17. Maybe Hugo Chavez can offer this kind of cultural export to George W.So what makes Gustavo special? The musicians probably have way more insight than I do. What I saw from the rehearsals and concert was incredible charisma, boundless energy, terrific “hands”, and supreme confidence. At his first rehearsal, he spent about 20 minutes on the first few bars of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. He was meticulous and exacting, but the players completely bought into it.Thursday night’s concert was completely sold out, due in large part to all the publicity about Gustavo, but also because Pinchas was the soloist and the programme was very accessible:BARBER Adagio for StringsBARTOK Viola ConcertoBEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5The opening of the Barber was really dramatic – I’ve never heard such a quiet entry. The closing was equally memorable. After the last note, Gustavo and the orchestra froze for at least 20 seconds and not a single person broke the silence. That was cool.So is Gustavo the next Bernstein? He seems to have the tools. He’s personable, tireless (he apparently went out dancing until 3:00 am after the second concert), talented, and looks good on a poster. The New York Philharmonic, LA Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, and Toronto Symphony all sent either musicians or staff to check him out this week – pretty heady stuff for a guy who just turned 26.

3 thoughts on “The Future of Conducting?

  1. And you’ll be introducing him to your favourite musicologist when?

    I’m young and sexy. I like a conductor with “good hands.” We’ll get along fabulously.

    Beethoven wrote a fifth symphony? Who knew.

  2. Mr. Tuck, as a noted musicologist, I’m sure you are aware that Beethoven wrote 17 symphonies before succumbing to syphillis. He also experimented with serialism, minimalism, modernism, classicism, catholicism, anarchism, racism, and sadism. His Requiem is generally considered the saddest piece ever written, and is rarely heard as the sound of wailing from the audience usually overpowers the performers.

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