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