Sunday, April 08, 2007

Chicago Sun-Times Critic Yesterday Demanded Chicago Symphony Offer New LA Phil Conductor A Contract Before He Left Town!

Every press report I can find agrees - the Los Angeles Philharmonic has just signed the greatest new conductor of the 21st Century.

Chicago Sun-Times April 7, 2007
Dudamel dazzles with CSO

April 7, 2007


Barely 26, Gustavo Dudamel hails from Venezuela, a land more associated with baseball and the politics of oil than classical music. But when he made his local debut Thursday night at Symphony Center, 2,400 jaws dropped, including those of many members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

This was a once-in-a-generation event: A conductor showed what happens when talent, charisma, excitement, daring and believe it or not in a world of Olympian egos, warmth and kindness take the stage. An electrical charge ran through the hall and its buzz didn't stop even after a wild, long ovation.

Dudamel's reputation preceded him. But it came from different sources than the usual hype machine. An unlikely trio of senior maestros -- Claudio Abbado, Simon Rattle and Daniel Barenboim -- have all pronounced him the real thing. Players in orchestras from Milan, Italy's La Scala to the Hollywood Bowl have said they have felt an energy for playing with Dudamel that some had forgotten could occur.

Dudamel is a product of his homeland's orchestral training system -- one that schools more than 250,000 kids, most starting at age 3. Opening with a 1954 piece by his countryman Evencio Castellanos, "Santa Cruz de Pacairigua," Dudamel transported both orchestra and audience to a festive Corpus Christi, Texas, procession.

Star violinist Pinchas Zukerman appeared for Bruch's Violin Concerto, and Dudamel proved a sensitive partner. But this hardly mattered, given the second-half excursion through Mahler's First Symphony -- the seismic calling card of another twentysomething.

Dudamel has his own ideas about this piece, and they can differ from the CSO's traditions and accepted readings. But who cares? When was the last time we saw almost every player at seat's edge, with eyes focused on the conductor? Or had a guest who listened as much as he led? This was the unpredictability that comes not from arrogance or self-involvement but from someone with a deep love for the music and a unique gift for communication.

In 1929, the University of Chicago named Robert Maynard Hutchins, then just 30, as its president, and the school -- and U.S. higher education -- was transformed, dramatically and historically.

In 1971, Ravinia unveiled the baby-faced James Levine as its next music director. Levine turned 28 that summer, and his 22 years at Ravinia became the stuff of legend.

CSO chair and Northern Trust Co. honcho William A. Osborn knows a bit about negotiating remarkable deals: He just brokered the sale of Tribune Co.

Osborn and his CSO colleagues have another potential Hutchins or Levine on their hands. Let's hope that they are carrying pens and contract paper to share with Dudamel before he leaves town. I can't wait to hear this concert again.

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