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What Sounds Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day

May 04, 2011

Gustavo Dudamel

After trotting out the old chestnut about gaining insight through completing one’s biological imperative, Reed Johnson quotes Gustavo Dudamel in today’s Los Angeles Times, thus:
"I'm doing really crazy things," [Dudamel] said, citing a lineup that will partner Brahms' Second Symphony with Sofia Gubaidulina's "Glorious Percussion," aptly named for the ensemble that premiered the piece with the Gothenburg Symphony under Dudamel in 2008; and Brahms' "A German Requiem" with the West Coast premiere of "Beautiful Passing" by Steven Mackey, who found his groove playing in rock bands and has written concertos for electric guitar.
Well, crazy for him maybe. Apparently fatherhood is not the only everyday revelation Dudamel has had recently. As “crazy” as it may seem to him, L.A. audiences have grown accustomed to exactly this kind of programming over the last two decades or so. But I suppose paring contemporary works with 19th century ones on a concert program, much like fatherhood, seems pretty unique to you when it’s a new experience.



One has to keep in mind that Gustavo does not yet possess true precision of language in English. For example, he often says "crazy" when he really means "exciting" or sometimes even just "interesting".
For a professional orchestra to have a conductor who is genuinely excited about music, including standard repertoire, is a very good thing. It is much preferable to having a conductor who would keep saying something like, "For the next couple of weeks, we'll be doing the normal usual stuff we always do".
Whether it is new for a musician or not, the music will always fare best when it is being approached as if it is in fact new. Disagreements about interpretations are of course an altogether separate issue.
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