Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dudamel Mania

Now that the Los Angeles Philharmonic's U.S. tour is completed and the critic's reaction is engraved in print, it's time for me to react to the two concerts I attended in Davies Symphony Hall on May 10 and 11, 2010. Although I love most of John Adams' work, City Noir, is not one of his masterpieces. It's always exciting to hear a work with this large instrumental presence live, and that sense of frisson and wonder was magnified by sitting behind the orchestra. But the work is flat out noisy with little melody to redeem the urban chaos it reflects. I can get that by visiting L.A., but it's not what I want in a concert. Maybe repeat hearings (it's just released on CD and the DVD is available)would change my mind, but there's too much else in his oeuvre that is worthwhile - Harmonielehre, Naive and Sentimental Music, Violin Concerto for starters). It seemed to be performed magnificently. The Mahler First, however, was truly memorable. By far the most exciting performance I've heard in a long time. Yes, he took many liberties with tempos and there was much rubato, but in doing that he emphasized the different emotional states the work encompasses in a way that was creative and innovative. I listened to the final movement on the edge of my seat, literally, and the excitement was overwhelming. That kind of passion is rare in a concert environment and even rarer in MTT's Mahler. Yes the San Francisco Symphony can play it much more accurately, but that extra ounce of passion is rarely present as it was on that Monday night.

Tuesday's concert was more ordinary, and my seat was in the Second Tier. Bernstein's Age of Anxiety was pleasant to hear live and it was well played. But it didn't move me. The Pathetique was where Dudamel's tendency to milk a work for its emotion did not work for me. The first movement was superb: the right combination of sadness and longing. The scherzo was exciting but over the top. Designed to bring forth applause in its frenzy, which it did. I thought his holding the applause for an extended period of time at the end of the work was gratuitous and unwarranted. So, for me, a mixed bag. The L.A. Philharmonic isn't close to the accomplished orchestra we have in San Francisco. On the other hand, it can play magnificently as witnessed in a performance I heard in L.A.'s incredible Disney Hall of Mahler's 6th Symphony under Eschenbach. I choose to attribute Dudamel's ups and downs to youth, and not to the desire to show off. After all, he's not even 30!
Robert Moon

1 comment:

  1. Hello Man of the Moon ----

    Thank you! It's good, that you remind us who were there that this guy's really young, virtually still a kid, as far as conductors of major orchestras go... that he's essentially still only a twentysomething.

    Maestro Dudamel is indeed a prodigious talent --- meaning that these days, the complex requirements of a conductor/music director extend quite beyond the domain of music, and obviously, he leads the band because he fills the bill.

    But the band in this case happens to be the Los Angeles Phil, which is precipitously close to Hollywood's influential touch in the theatrics of high drama.

    To virtually engineer, if you will, the audience into an eruption of applause for the thrilling, rousing marche of the Third Movement, and then to force the audience into a protracted freezing of spontaneous applause for their sincere appreciation at the conclusion of the weeping wail of the Finale --- via his filmdom display of bowed tragedios and sundering pathos, a way-over-the-top, envelope-pushing display of bad acting and vulgarity that cheapened a great masterwork --- was unfair to the audience.

    In so gagging the audience's response, it felt manipulative, and became increasingly embarrassing as the multiples of seconds ticked-on, stretched out into perhaps a full half-minute and maybe even more. That is a long span of time, at least 30-plus seconds give or take, an unnatural stretch, where not one person dared move, on stage or in audience, not one instrument shifted, no one dared cough nor rustle a program, while Dudamel held the mordant momentousness of 'The Pathetique Symphony.' It felt like a calculated movie scene played to the hilt for higest effect.

    On that evening, we at Davies Symphony Hall of course forgave this sincerely inspired though perhaps poorly judged and immature display, because the music (if not Tchaikovsky's artistic intent) was well served... and because Dudamel is, admittedly, lovable and endearing, and not least because he is young and thus boldly and freshly questing, creatively.

    For better or for worse, with Hollywood extravagance or the elegant sobriety of the dazzling classical arts, but above all, for the dynamic future of music and cultural life, may his muses continue to inspire him.

    dianna cm
    (D. Ch'an-Moriwaki)