Monday, December 21, 2015

Dudamel! (or: where has this man BEEN all my life?)




Dudamel in 2012


Gustavo Adolfo Dudamel Ramírez (born January 26, 1981) is a Venezuelan conductor and violinist. He is the music director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Background information

Birth name  Gustavo Adolfo Dudamel Ramírez

Born  January 26, 1981 (age 34)

Barquisimeto, Lara,Venezuela

Genres  Classical

Occupation(s)  Composer, conductor

Instruments  Violin

Years active   1999–present

Associated acts

Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

Website  www.GustavoDudamel.com

So now I find out about Dudamel, and I am simply overwhelmed. Where has this man BEEN all my life? I am not sure. He is the proverbial bundle of joy, and as it turns out is a huge celebrity in the classical music field. Celebritude never impressed me much in any field, but if there is an area that needs big celebrities, it's this one.

I keep hearing that the days of the classical concert hall are numbered. The average opera-goer is 48 years old, and younger ones are not coming up through the ranks. This man conducts with a zeal I have simply never seen. I did see Leonard Bernstein in 1967 during our Centennial, and I'll never forget his balletics on the podium. But Bernstein was a dark, angsty figure tangled in his own neuroses. This guy - well, the only other figure in classical music I can compare him to is Itzak Perlman, whom I've also seen perform (twice!), filling the concert hall with happiness and sharing his contagious joy.

I haven't even begun to scratch the surface here. There are dozens of Dudamel YouTube videos, and here the guy is only 34 years old, a baby in conducting terms. He's already been at it a long time. Even his name is exotic, like something you can eat, bechamel or caramel, or bechamel followed by caramel. (It's also a bit like Gargamel, the villian in the Smurf cartoons.) No doubt his detractors see him as overexuberant, not serious enough, but to me he looks like a badly-needed injection of energy and presence, accessibility, in a field that has prized insularity and snobbitude for far too long.

Classical music can't afford to be elitist any more. Sometimes, as with Winston Churchill, the right person steps up at the crucial moment. This man with all the names (reminding me of  that great silent screen hero/sheik, Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguolla) might just be the one to do it. He goes on Ellen and Conan and who-knows-who-else, even Sesame Street, spreading the joy and opening the door.

The gifs I made were a delight to me, because he's obviously so digging the music that he can hardly restrain himself from dancing. Sometimes he literally dances, and when he conducts a piece like An American in Paris, I can't help but think that Gershwin, who was known to tap dance while waiting for an elevator, would like his approach just fine.



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