Sunday June 25, 2017 1:45 am


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FanFaire celebrates GUSTAVO DUDAMEL
SUPERCONDUCTOR!

MAHLER IN HIS LIFE

GUSTAVO on GUSTAV’s 5th SYMPHONY

Gustav Mahler - sketch

My love affair
with Mahler started
when I was a boy
and was given
a recording by my uncle.
The first big symphonic piece
I conducted at age 16 was Mahler’s First Symphony.
The works of Mahler have a very special place in my heart…

-Gustavo Dudamel

GUSTAV MAHLER’s symphonies are a force of nature – complex works of such unusual musical and metaphysical dimensions that conductors do not normally attempt to perform, let alone record, them until they have reached certain milestones later in their careers.

So, what business does a 26-year old “kid” from Venezuela have conducting AND recording Mahler’s challenging “GIANT” symphony at the beginning of his career, with an orchestra of even younger kids? It is a question asked not in disapproval but in wonderment, with the same jaw-dropping amazement that Sir SIMON RATTLE felt when he saw a children’s orchestra in Venezuela, “where nobody’s feet literally touched the ground, wonderfully playing Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slav, led by an 8-year old who has no business having so much technique on a violin…!” It is a question that does not beg for an answer other than acceptance, the way one welcomes the unexpected appearance of genius and good fortune.

Dudamel’s recording of Mahler’s 5th was a 2007 FanFaire CD Giveaway

Was it merely fortuitous that the first Mahler symphony Dudamel chose to conduct and that eventually won him the 2004 Mahler Competition in Bamberg, making it a “reference point” in his life, was the very work that marked a turning point in Mahler’s own development as a symphonist? Composed in the summer of 1902 and premiered in 1904, it was one he revised over and over again. It was not until almost the end of his life in 1911 that he was satisfied enough to declare “The Fifth is finished.”

As it turned out , the Fifth was the crucible in which the influences of geniuses before him – Bach, Beethoven, Wagner – fused with his own genius to produce a masterpiece that raised symphonic music to new heights. Unleashing the power of percussion as he deployed an enormous array of musical instruments and breaking the structural rules of composition as he developed a new polyphonic and polyrhythmic style, Mahler created music of such immense power – indeed, “a universe in every note” – that left his audience dumbstruck. It was music that communicated itself without need of annotation or program notes. “Down with program books! They propagate false ideas!” Mahler was heard to exclaim many a time, unwavering in the belief that the sheer power of his music was “far more capable of expression and illumination” than the language of words.

In light of this, it becomes easy to understand how the more than 150 talented youngsters who make up the SIMON BOLIVAR YOUTH ORCHESTRA*, most of them plucked from the barrios and inner cities of Venezuela and every single one schooled not in any of the world’s famed music academies but in the regional music centers of the country’s EL SISTEMA, can play Mahler’s 5th without fear and with seeming emotional maturity. And certainly with the reverent excitement that accompanies the exhilarating discovery, by young or old, of a universe in every note of a Mahler masterpiece – as you can ascertain from the above video clip as well as from the audio clips below.

LISTEN to CD HIGHLIGHTS:

Part I.II. Stürmisch bewegt; mit grösser Vehemenz (Stormily agitated; with great vehemence)
Part II. III. Scherzo: Kräftig nicht zu schnell (Vigorously, not too fast)
Part III. IV. Adagietto: Sehr langsam (Very slowly)
Part III. V. Rondo- Finale. Allegro – Allegro giocoso. Frisch (Brisk)

BUY THE CD

DOWNLOAD MP3.

As to Dudamel, could it be that he was named GUSTAVO for a then hidden but now obvious reason? How many young people does one come across who get themselves acquainted with Mahler’s 5th Symphony at age 11, begin to study it in earnest at 16, conduct it with a professional orchestra at 23, and record it at 26 with one of the world’s most respected recording companies?

The similarity between GUSTAVO DUDAMEL and GUSTAV MAHLER does not begin and end with the name they share. Today, few remember that Mahler’s fame as a conductor preceded by decades his reputation as a great composer.*

Indeed, at the turn of the 20th century, when Mahler was the conductor of the Vienna State Opera and ART was the order of the day almost everywhere in the world, he was–after the Austrian emperor–the most famous man in Vienna. Offered to him in 1897 when he was 37 years old, the music directorship of the State Opera was the plum position of his conducting career, which began when he was 25 years old in a summer theatre Bad Hall, a town in middle upper Austria.

Fast forward to turn-of the-millennium… in a gymnasium in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, a precocious 17-year old boy named GUSTAVO was about to face the test of his young life. Baton in hand, he stood unfazed on a podium and began to conduct a humongous ensemble of about 800 orchestra and choir members, launching a conducting career (with the CHILDREN’S ORCHESTRA of VENEZUELA, now famously known as the SIMON BOLIVAR YOUTH ORCHESTRA OF VENEZUELA*), that would take him barely 6 years later to the Mahler competition in Bamberg (Germany) which he won, hands down, conducting Mahler’s 5th. “A conducting animal!” ESA-PEKKA SALONEN, LA Philharmonic Music Director (who served as a juror in the competition and himself an erstwhile enfant-terrible among today’s conductors), quickly reported back to LA. The rest, while not quite history yet, is definitely history-in-the-making.

Gustavo conducts Mahler’s 5th at La Scala

Dudamel conducts Mahler 5 Symphony (Part I)- Teatro alla Scala (Milan) Tamiati principal trumpet.

Dudamel conducts Mahler 5 Symphony (Part I)- Teatro alla Scala (Milan) Tamiati principal trumpet.

Gustavo Dudamel conduct Mahler 5 Symphony. Teatro alla Scala (Milan) Francesco Tamiati Principal Trumpet.

Gustavo dudamel dirige la Quinta Sinfonia di Mahler. Orchestra del “Teatro alla Scala”- Prima Tromba Francesco Tamiati

Dudamel conduct Mahler 5 Symphony (Part II) – Teatro alla Scala (Milan) Tamiati Principal Trumpet.

Dudamel conduct Mahler 5 Symphony (Part II) – Teatro alla Scala (Milan) Tamiati Principal Trumpet.

Gustavo Dudamel conduct Mahler 5 Symphony. Teatro alla Scala (Milan) Francesco Tamiati Principal Trumpet.

Gustavo dudamel dirige la Quinta Sinfonia di Mahler. Orchestra del “Teatro alla Scala”- Prima Tromba Francesco Tamiati

Today the Principal Conductor as well of Sweden’s premiere Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, in 2009 he inherits the baton from SALONEN as Music Director of one of America’s top-tier orchestras, a plum position by any measure. His youth and boundless energy combine with a star quality that makes him the indisputable and much-needed icon for the future of classical music. This being the 21st century, the world is his stage as he conducts from the podiums of hallowed concert halls, and millions begin to track the orbit of his rocket-ship career and perhaps witness the dawning of a DUDAMEL era in the performing arts. If this were early 20th-century Vienna, wouldn’t this phenomenon of a conductor be called GUSTAV? -© Gloria Cajipe / FanFaire

*Renamed SIMON BOLIVAR SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA in 2010 when the average member’s age exceeded the limit set for youth orchestras

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