By: Mark Swed - Let’s see. There was the buildup. There was “¡Bienvenido Dudamel!” at the Bowl and an opening night on global TV. And the media feeding frenzy. And Drubbing Dudamel, The Tour.
He’s the future of classical music. He’s not the future of classical music. He’s the new Leonard Bernstein. He’s the old Zubin Mehta. He’s the hot Venezuelan. He’s the scary other. The Los Angeles Philharmonic is re-inventing the symphony orchestra. No, it isn't. The Los Angeles Times doesn't get it.
City noir, indeed
Perhaps what Gustavo Dudamel really is is a mirror. In youth-oriented, increasingly Latin Los Angeles, a city of adventure and celebrity, he is, well, the ultimate celebrity conductor. Consider the reviews on the Phil's eight-city national tour: In the home of orchestral dysfunction, Dudamel’s L.A. Phil poses no threat to the leaderless Fabulous Philadelphians. In status quo D.C, Dudamel is understood as fabulous but status quo. In sophisticated San Francisco, Dudamel is no Michael Tilson Thomas Mahlerian. In soon-to-be Muti’s Chicago, we are barbarians at the gate. In New York, nothing’s ever simple.
So what did Dudamel really do in his first season as music director of the L.A. Philharmonic (besides, of course, attract huge admiring crowds and hoards of journalists)? A lot of new music, for one thing. He also tirelessly proselytized for music education. Mainly, though, he kept audiences, musicians and exhausted administrators never knowing what to expect next.
Photo: Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Youth Orchestra of L.A. at his season-opening Hollywood Bowl Concert in October. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times.