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Gustavo Dudamel & Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela

Rehearsal and symposium at Royal Festival Hall and CD Fiesta

Tickets for Dudamel's sold-out London residency with his Venezuelan Orchestra have reached inflated prices on eBay. With sell outs for Barenboim and, now, Dudamel with his own orchestra, South Bank Centre has belatedly joined the sporting and pop scenes (q.v. Michael Jackson etc at O2 in Greenwich) with the fruits of marketing success... That's the way the world seems to be going.

Musical Pointers did not qualify for press tickets to cover the concerts of these super-stars in London - though we did succeed in hearing Dudamel's remarkable Mahler with the Philharmonia and promptly joined his disciples.

"It's all about dance, about rhythm" is Deutsche Grammophon's chosen quote from Dudamel to promote their CD of Latin American music Fiesta [477 8337]. That was what wowed the Proms and its TV audience last year. The problem is that this is indeed very physical music and the visual factor is important, maybe essential. So this Caracas recording might disappoint or, at least, pall for Musical Pointers readers on playing right through or on repeated hearings. That is not to belittle the importance of their own composers in the world-wide achievement and social importance of this project and the country's El Sistema network of 57 children’s orchestras and 125 youth orchestras.

Today's rehearsal of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, with everyone dressed informally, showed quite other sides of Dudamel and his dedicated musicians.

After greeting his huge morning audience warmly and making us comfortable with a few words "We might stop, we might not - enjoy!", Dudamel regaled us with a full uninterrupted performance of Le Sacre. With sonorities of a depth and richness never equalled in our memories from the past, this will have been for many present a life enhancing and never to be forgotten experience of this century-old harbinger of music's future.

But that belied the hard work which ensued; Dudamel spent most of two hours honing details and achieving unimaginable subtleties of articulation and expressiveness. Without a score, nothing escaped him and the exciting sections became ever tauter and more intense, the players giving their all and then more.

But it was the quieter music which left our most enduring memories, and Dudamel's comments when he turned round to addresse us occasionally; very few but always pithy.

He spent many minutes perfecting the already near-perfect presentation of the opening bassoon solo. And other passages were dissected, demonstrating to us that euphonious, beautiful music for orchestral sections alone was "like Brahms" - but became pure Stravinsky when put together.

A melodic turn of woodwind phrasing was identified as "Duke Ellington" - one immediately recognised what he meant - and a repetitive drum figure was characterised as the origin of Heavy Metal !

Each of those links was persuasive but, regrettably, the Guardian's Handy Guide to Heavy Metal today didn't quite reinforce the link as hoped, and leaves us 'classical' outsiders still right outside...)

Demanding alterations of rhythm and tone quality were achieved in a mood of smiling friendliness which showed true, relaxed rapport with these musicians that he knows so well as one of them; not a remote "maestro" as in the more familiar relationship between 'great' conductors and players.

For those without tickets for the rehearsals (or for the concerts) the Festival Hall had set up screens and sound diffusion of very adequate quality in the lower foyer area. You'd certainly get a lot of the atmosphere by turning up there on Saturday evening.


See also Dudamel in Caracas and Bonn


Symposium‘Through Venezuelan Eyes

Royal Festival Hall 15 April 2009


This first of three symposia, chaired with grace and humour by Jim Naughtie, featured José Antonio Abreu the founder and director of the national system of Young Peoples’, Children’s and Pre-school Orchestras of Venezuela; Gustavo Dudamel, music director of Simón Bolíver Youth Orchestra, Richard Holloway, chair of Big Noise (Scotland’s Sistema) and two musicians that are products of El Sistema, a violinist from the first orchestra and the current principal trumpet of the SBYO.


It was a fascinating hour and a half in which all the panelists spoke with passion and fervour in favour of a system which has brought communities together, transformed the lives of it’s participants and put music on the agenda of every citizen of Venezuela.


Music, music education and the wider experience of culture that goes with it were constantly referred to as human and constitutional rights that everyone has a duty to protect and nourish.

Daire Halpin

Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela/Gustavo Dudamel

SILVESTRE REVUELTAS (1899–1940) [1] Sensemayá (Mexico)
INOCENTE CARREÑO (*1919) [2] Margariteña (Venezuela)
ANTONIO ESTÉVEZ (1916–1988) [3] Mediodía en el Llano (Venezuela)
ARTURO MÁRQUEZ (*1950) [4] Danzón no. 2 (Mexico)
ALDEMARO ROMERO (1928–2007) [5] Fuga con Pajarillo (Venezuela) from Suite for Strings no. 1 (orchestral version)
ALBERTO GINASTERA (1916–1983) Dances from the ballet "Estancia" op. 8 (Argentina) [6] 1. Los trabajadores agrícolas [7] 2. Danza del trigo [8] 3. Los peones de hacienda [9] 4. Danza final (Malambo)
EVENCIO CASTELLANOS (1915–1984) [10] Santa Cruz de Pacairigua (Venezuela) Symphonic Suite LEONARD BERNSTEIN (1918–1990) [11] Mambo Symphonic Dance from "West Side Story"

Deutsche Grammophon CD 4778337

See also: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/classical/article6094531.ece

and http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/apr/15/heavy-metal-music