Dudamel, Josefowicz and the LA Phil
Photo : mine 2008
It was better. Not great, but better. Over these last few months I have increasingly felt (for no reason other than my own delusions of grandeur) that I alone am carrying the “con” banner when it comes to discussions of Gustavo Dudamel and his veritable beatification by the media here in Los Angeles and around the world. If you don’t believe me, just look at the cover of yesterday’s LA Times
. Now I’m no stranger to gushing, but, as I have made the case on many prior occasions
, Dudamel is overrated as a conductor at this point in his career.
Now all that being said, I am also aware that mantels can be heavy to bear, so let me put mine down for a moment to talk about the fact that I actually do think the LA Phil’s music-director-to-be is very talented. He exudes a warmth and clearly is well-liked by the orchestra and other musicians. Twice in the last two weeks, he seated himself amongst the orchestra members in order to watch encore performances from celebrity soloists. He appears to care deeply about what he is doing and arguably does bring excitement to the proceedings. Although his approach seems overly enthusiastic a little too often, he is not dull to watch. And frankly dull may be a bigger crime than overstated.
This weekend the Philharmonic was again in his hands with a largely French program including Debussy's Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
and Ravel’s complete ballet music for Daphnis and Chloé
. And, while neither was perfect, there was a clear sense of dynamics, particularly in the Ravel. I’m usually not a fan of ballet music (with a few exceptions) and the Ravel is not a favorite. I thought Dudamel’s account was engaging and worthwhile. The Pacific Chorale sounded great as did the Philharmonic players. The Debussy seemed unfocused, but was not bombastic or inappropriate at all. Of course I was sitting in the Balcony due to the high demand for tickets for all these sold-out shows this weekend, which may have tempered things for me, but I still felt this was a significant improvement over his last few appearances with the LA Phil, and certainly the best since his debut
at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The other big item on the menu was the second Bartòk violin concerto with Leila Josefowicz, which I admired more in concept than in actual execution. Josefowicz seemed distant to me at times, but this is not an easily digestible work, and to feature it is the first sign that Dudamel won’t completely be timid about the 20th century (or at least the first half of it). It seemed to me that conductor and soloist were attentive to one another even though it didn’t quite come together all the way. So, admittedly, I for one left Sunday’s matinée pleased. Despite my recent doom and gloom on the topic, I think the Dudamel era may well be a remarkable one. There may be a lot of PR crap to cut through to get to it, but it may be there. And maybe I can begin to believe that NY didn’t get the better bargain with Alan Gilbert after all.
Labels: Dudamel, LA Philharmonic 07/08, Music Reviews 07/08