Gustavo Dudamel, the 28-year-old wunderkind from Venezuela tasked with the not-insignificant job of revitalizing interest in classical music in Los Angeles (if not the United States), made his debut Saturday night as musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. And we love the way he did it -- with a free concert at the Hollywood Bowl, directing a group of 100 student musicians.
For Dudamel, a product of Venezuela's musical education system, teaching children is a top priority. He showcased that on Saturday. But he didn't just play with the kids -- he ended the night by leading the Philharmonic in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, complete with fireworks towering over the bowl.
And from initial reports, it seems that critics are raving over the Dude's debut. Here's what they're saying:
- Jill Stewart, LA Daily: "We sat perhaps 100 to 150 feet away from Gustavo Dudamel at the Hollywood Bowl last night, watching as he whipped his wiry, pale-skinned little body around the stage like dancer whose DNA somehow got mixed up with Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek. I wanted to snack on my brie-and-figs picnic, but you almost couldn't take your eyes away."
- Jack Black, actor/musician: "Dude's on fire!"
- Mark Swed, LA Times: "When it was over, Dudamel spoke briefly of the meaning of Beethoven, of the children and our future. We are a continent together, he said, no North, no South, no Central America. He then repeated the last five minutes of the symphony with fireworks. It felt, at that moment, like the greatest show on earth."
- John Rabe, KPCC: "We listened to Dudamel’s Bowl performance at home on KUSC. It was transcendent. We felt connected with everyone in Los Angeles."
- Anthony Tommasini, New York Times: "This was not the Beethoven’s Ninth some might have expected from a young dynamo. The tempos were restrained. Even in the scherzo, he strove for an organic steady pace. The slow movement had breadth and quiet intensity. And the finale, the choristers fired with enthusiasm, was exhilarating. It was affecting to hear Schiller’s references to the “starry canopy” performed outdoors on this balmy night."
- Timothy Mangan, Orange County Register: "It was a long coronation. The king, when he finally appeared, looked a little sheepish, a little embarrassed by all the attention, all the praise, all the expectation. Even a king can only do so much. Even a king puts his pants on one leg at a time, or has someone do it for him. ... The long day's journey into night was climaxed by a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. A rather good one, in fact. The kid's got talent, no question."
- Will Campbell, Metblogs: "It was everything I’d hoped it would be: a once-in-a-lifetime exuberant and unifying celebration of the musical arts and creative spirit that truly bookmarked an historic page in the cultural catalog of Los Angeles."