The Dazzling Wunderkind of Classical Music

For many years I thought there would never be another classical music conductor like Leonard Bernstein, Music Director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Bernstein had the rare gift of connecting himself intimately with his orchestra as well as with the audience. He made you “feel” the music, more than “hear” the music. When he passed away in 1990, the magic of classical music evaporated from the concert halls of the world.

The elusive magic came back 18 years later in the body of a vigorous young Venezuelan conductor who is destined to change musical history. His name is Gustavo Adolfo Dudamel Ramírez born on January 26, 1981.

At age 27, he’s presently the principal conductor of Sweden’s Gothenburg Symphony, and in September of 2009 he will become the new leader of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He has been described by the New York Times as “one of the hottest— and youngest—conducting properties around.”

Those around Dudamel describe him as exuberant, energetic and passionate. His conducting style is thoroughly non-European, and very Latin: he leaps and bounces, often off the podium and on the floor.

It’s almost a dance performance. The feeling of the conductor as a conduit for the music is tangible, and the musicians watch him intently; Sir Simon Rattle of the Berlin Philharmonic—his mentor—describes the process as “communicating backwards and forwards”.

On one occasion, while he was in a practice session with members of the venerable Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (old enough to be his grandfathers), he was having difficulty obtaining a heavy fortíssimo from the orchestra. He told them frankly that blood was not coming through. He said he wanted to feel blood on his face. He used his baton as a knife to show what he meant.

After two or three attempts to get a heavy fortíssimo, with a warm smile on his his face he told the musicians, “now we have blood”. This shows how strong Dudamel feels for classical music.

If you didn’t know who Gustavo Dudamel was before reading this post, and you are lucky to attend one of his performances, remember that you met him first at Lingua Franca. Good Day!

Gustavo Dudamel’s Videos – Sixty Minutes

3 thoughts on “The Dazzling Wunderkind of Classical Music”

  1. You can see more of Dudamel on YouTube of course, & also in 2 full-length videos: &, if you’re not lucky enough to be close to a place where he’s conducting. As far as I’m concerned he’s plenty mature already, has been conducting about 12 years, & in Venezuela’s el sistema there are enough orchestras that a budding conductor can exercise his craft every day. The fact that he usually conducts without scores points this out.

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