For those of us who have watched and listened to the magical rise of the young intensely musical Gustavo Dudamel from his first appearances in this country, and were fortunate enough to be present during his inaugural concerts as Music Director and Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic as well as his subsequent 2009 autumn concerts, this DVD of the young gentle giant in performance is a particular treasure. And while it is one thing to be present in the hall when Dudamel is conducting live, when the electricity and magnetism of his talent is so obvious, this memento is a very fine way to share his gifts. As with all recorded live performances, there are times when close-ups of the various orchestra players disrupt the flow and intensity of the music, but DGG has done a fine job with the acoustics and with the quality of photography, and they have given a generous amount of time to focusing on Dudamel as he shapes and molds and indulges in the music at hand.
John Adams' 'City Noir' was commissioned for this occasion and Dudamel brings this rather thickly orchestrated work to life. More about that later. But the joy of the DVD is the brilliance of the performance of the Mahler First Symphony. Dudamel already channels Mahler like few other conductors, relishing the changing rhythms and tune variations in a manner that seems as though Mahler himself might be on the podium. He shapes the entire symphony with a finely tuned unified focus, allowing the symphony to unfold with every idiosyncrasy that makes Mahler so wondrous. His tempi are flexible, his pausing for phrases to develop is fascinating, and his physical communication with his orchestra is magically infectious. There will always be those who say that no conductor can equal the old recorded performances by the past masters like Bruno Walter etc., but that is the type of response does not allow for the fact that Mahler is Mahler and when he is as fresh today under the baton of someone as musical as Gustavo Dudamel as he was over a hundred years ago, then it may be time to put away old prejudices and re-open the heart to the immediacy of music making.
One aspect of Dudamel's new position with the Los Angeles Philharmonic that has endeared him to the orchestra and audiences alike is his selfless approach to the music which he demonstrates by forsaking the personal bows and instead, walking into the orchestra members to thank them and laud their performance. Dudamel is a source of joy and a gift to the world of classical music. This DVD captures that. Grady Harp, January 10
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