Last week Gustavo Dudamel made his 2nd, 3rd or 4th appearance here. I’m a bit foggy on the number because before last week I’ve managed to be off every time he came to town.
Some conductors are better in theory than in practice but Dudamel mostly delivered the goods and managed to live up to the hype preceding his arrival. Sold-out houses, in spite of some horrible weather, were also very encouraging to see.
Dudamel accomplished the unlikely feat of attracting the rapt attention of both audience and orchestra alike, with only a few of the usual exceptions among the latter. There was some debate as to whether his long drawn-out pose at the end of the Barber Adagio might have been over the top, but not all conductors have sufficient cachet with the audience to prevent the loutish, premature applause that so often mars the endings of quiet pieces. If you’ve got it flaunt it, I guess. And considering how often in this business greatness and self-indulgence find each other locked in an unbreakable embrace, I consider a little of it entirely forgivable.
We used to have another conductor around here from South America – name escapes me – and there were a few times during the week when Dudamel reminded me strongly of that other Maestro. Dudamel’s Brahms was not always to my taste, however he proved very capable of getting what he wanted from the orchestra and it was quite enjoyable doing things a little differently – even getting what you want all the time can become disagreeable. His manner and the resulting fine performances he got out of the orchestra made a strong case for the argument that putting forth ideas in an agreeable manner might be a more efficient way of doing things.