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January 07, 2007

Gustavo Dudamel in action
Photo: Lawrence K Ho/LAT 2006
It’s Oscar season here in LA and as the industry is busy considering all kinds of films and performances, the LA Phil got a little glamour of its own this week. This came in the form of guest conductor Gustavo Dudamel who led the Philharmonic in a program featuring Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, Kodály’s Dances from Galánta, and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.3 with soloist Yefim Bronfman. Here in LA we like ‘em young and hot and with a lot of good press in advance - clearly Dudamel fits the bill. He’s been seen around the world with all the right people apparently soaking up wisdom from the likes of Sir Rattle. I myself saw him conduct a very good performance of L’elisir d’amore under the direct and watchful eye of Daniel Barenboim at the Staatsoper Unter der Linden in Berlin last April only to see him return the next night to watch a performance of Der Freischütz with Barenboim from the director’s box just off stage left.

So it was no surprise that he was met with such a wildly enthusiastic reception at the Walt Disney Concert Hall here in LA. He is wildly exuberant in a way that is still charming given his youth and he’s not bad at leading the orchestra either. The Kodály was vibrant and spirited and the Bartók was nothing to sniff at either. The big problem was the Rachmaninoff, which in the hands of Bronfman, sounded rather undynamic while certainly technically admirable. I typically like Bronfman, and he was certainly very engaging in an excellent performance of Schubert’s Piano Trio in B-flat with Bing Wang and Ben Hong on Tuesday. Of course I may not be the best judge in that I will admit that I don’t care for the Rachmaninoff piano concertos largely because they have always seemed like so much histrionic mush. (And I have an extremely high-tolerance for sentiment as evidenced by my love of French opera.) But the crowd loved it anyway, which I guess is OK – this is a show business town and, regardless of the music or its performance, this was quite a show.

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