The Ode to Joy


Cath and I spent a goodly portion of our Saturday night listening to a radio broadcast of a classical concert.

Just down the street, the Hollywood Bowl overflowed with 18,000 guests — holders of free tickets from all ages and sectors of our society. Many had never been to the Bowl, or to an LA Phil concert.

This was the launch of Gustavo Dudamel’s tenure as the music director of the L.A. Philharmonic — he insisted that his debut not be the gala opening that takes place this Thursday, but rather a free event that would include anyone who wished to show up.

The crowd was not typical for the Phil — this crowd thought they were at a rock concert.

Patrons rushed the stage to be closer to the music; each movement was received with raucous applause and shouts — the audience unaware and uncaring of the breach of protocol.

Mark Swed sums it up better in his article, but for me it was all pure joy — the intent of choosing Beethoven’s ninth, it seems.

Mark quotes “Leonard Bernstein once said that we can never express too much joy when it comes to Beethoven, and Dudamel took him at his word.”

It seems LA is in for a new era of classical music — seasons grounded thoroughly in the music (not just gimmicked out) — but with the added element Dudamel brings: community.

This is music for the people, Dudamel seems to say with every action.

He started out the night by leading a youth orchestra — a bunch of kids who have instruments to play only through the generosity of a non-profit organization. They are the future, and the future starts today, Dudamel reminded us.

He is mentoring a rash of young conductors throughout the season; he has committed to performing an inordinate amount of new works.

He conducts without a score — the music is imprinted on the heart and mind.

And when he takes his bows, he does not do so from the elevation of the conductor’s podium, nor standing in front of the orchestra. Rather he breaks protocol by stepping into the orchestra, bowing from the midst of the players, reminding us that he is but one element of a communal effort.

Such actions take two admirable traits to be treasured if ever found in an artist: humility and security.

Is he the greatest conductor of all time?

How the heck should I know? I’m no classical expert.

But I’ll tell you right now: after only one concert, I’m proud to say he’s my conductor.

The moment he was back stage, rather than rushing to the privacy of his dressing room, he took up a glass of beer (yes, beer!) with the rest of his players to celebrate a great night of music.

Here’s to you, Gustavo, and welcome to Los Angeles.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

Favorite lines from Swed’s review, in discussing the last movement: “In the opening, crazy made a sudden turn to grace…” and “Here, Dudamel tested limits. He took the final measures faster than reasonable but just short of impossible. A full moon rose over the Bowl’s hedges, as if elevated by the energy on stage.”

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2 responses to “The Ode to Joy”

  1. Linds says :

    Oh, to be back in LA! I love Beethoven's 9th. My dad and I stumbled upon an outdoor performance of it in Chicago's Grant park this summer and it was a moment of grace in a busy day. Dudamel sounds like my kind of conductor.Maybe Nate and I will have to make a trip to the Bowl sometime soon.

  2. David Goulet says :

    Not since Bugs Bunny have I seen such an animated conductor.

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