Gustavo Dudamel’s back conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic this week for the first time since taking the group on a U.S. tour in the spring. The reviews were mixed then and so there is a sense that the young conductor has to prove himself (or has something to prove) all over again. But I don’t look at it that way, and that’s not just because I’ve generally liked what I’ve heard so far.
All three of his concerts this week are at the Hollywood Bowl, that venerable, magical, frustrating outdoor venue where the L.A. Phil spends the summer. Sunday, Dudamel made his U.S. operatic debut conducting a concert “Carmen” there. I missed it, but this reviewer thought it was good enough to predict a future at La Scala for Dudamel. I don’t doubt it.
I’ll be approaching Dudamel’s concerts on Tuesday and Thursday with great anticipation and an open mind. At the same time, I won’t be expecting a lot (or, maybe I should say, “too much.”) Expecting too much at the Bowl is always a mistake. The rehearsal schedule is truncated and the sound system is dubious.
Nevertheless, I enjoy it there plenty, and the venue’s faults melt away under the right conditions. Perhaps the conditions will be right on Tuesday and Thursday, perhaps they won’t.
Either way, I don’t see it as an occasion to make a big deal out of it. A wiser critic than I am once told me, “Review the concert, not the career,” and I generally stick by that when I’m reviewing a live event. Or as Virgil Thomson once prescribed (I didn’t know him), tell the reader “what happened.”
Tuesday’s program is a pleasing Bernstein/Gershwin affair, with Gabriela Montero as the piano soloist in Rhapsody in Blue. Thursday’s program is Latin-themed, sort of, ending with Ravel’s Bolero, which I always enjoy and which seems almost conductor-proof, so I’ll be curious what Dudamel can do with it, if anything.
Still, I think I’ll refrain from summing up Dudamel’s career to this point, or look into my crystal ball. It’s the Bowl! I’ll take what I can get and hope to get out of the parking lot in under 30 minutes.
Saturday night, I’ll be at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater to hear Carl St.Clair conduct the Pacific Symphony in the annual — sigh — Tchaikovsky Spectacular and plugging (saving) my ears during the 1812 finale. I may feel like plugging my ears during Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, but I promise not to.
photo: andrew eccles, courtesy l.a. philharmonic
Thanks for the breezy report, Tim. We’ve been out of town and not in a position to congratulate you on this nice, smooth-looking new blog. i like the title too. Enjoy summer listening and thanks for the ever-helpful reminder to review the concert not the career.
Upward and onward.
Extricating ourselves took 46 minutes Sunday night and that was with my “aggressive” (her word, not mine) wife driving. I’m taking MetroRail Tuesday Night.
See you there, Bob.
Totally appreciate your willingness to “review the concert, not the career,” and to do so in the context of the Hollywood Bowl in all its glory & frustration. Look forward to your reviews from Tues & Thurs night.
Am curious as to why the “sigh” and ear-plugging regarding the Tchaikovsky . . . Is it the ubiquity? The music itself? The cannon fire and the inevitable fireworks that make it a “Tchaikovsky Spectacular” and not just a “Tchaikovsky Concert?” Perhaps it’s that the Spirit of Troy won’t be at Verizon to pump up the brass section???
I guess as I get older I weary of Tchaikovsky Spectaculars in general, and the repertoire of this one in particular is less than thrilling to me. But it’ll be fine, and of course I don’t mean to pre-judge. I like the pianist, and St.Clair and this orchestra made hay with the Swan Lake excerpts a few months ago.
Oh, and the cannon-fire for these Verizon concerts is waaaaay over the top. I’m a delicate creature, you know.
We go to the outdoor venues (Hollywood Bowl, Verizon Wireless) for the whole scene…pre-concert dinner with lots of wine, fireworks, etc…not expecting to hear the LA Phil in concert-hall acoustics. It’s a lot of fun, but a completely different experience from listening to Phil, Gene, Larry and Dave play a late Beethoven quartet.
By the way, Suzanne and I will be at Verizon Saturday night. Maybe we’ll see you.