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Frühbeck de Burgos and changing musical tastes

August 13, 2011 |  9:00 am

Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos conducts the L.A. Philharmonic in summer 2010.

Fans of old-world musicianship have come to cherish performances by the Spanish conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, who returns to the Hollywood Bowl next week for two programs with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Those present at the Bowl last summer may have heard Frühbeck lead the philharmonic in Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, which the orchestra had already performed several times that season under Gustavo Dudamel’s direction. But Frühbeck, who turns 78 in September, emphasized aspects of the work different from those that Dudamel had highlighted.

“That’s the beauty of it,” Frühbeck said. “The way I saw Mahler One when I was Dudamel’s age is not the same as now. My interpretation changed –- I hope for the better. I think it’s very interesting to compare what a young man does and what a very old man does.”

The conductor says that back in the 1960s he was the first to program all of Mahler’s major works in Spain, even if he did not conduct them all. “What the musicians said -– and the critics -– whew!” he recollected. “Now Mahler is very popular in Spain, but then there were many symphonies that had not been done before I programmed them. Six and Seven were not well received, and people didn’t understand Nine at all at that time. Today everybody adores Mahler’s Ninth. I did it again in Spain last year, and it was a smashing success. But when we first programmed it, it was not.”

A lot has changed musically in Spain over the years, and in no small part thanks to this conductor, who for 18 years was in charge of the Spanish National Orchestra. “In one way in particular things have improved: the infrastructure,” he said. “There were practically no auditoriums back then. Now there are about 20. And now there are new orchestras too. There are five or six that are excellent. Sadly, the National is not anymore one of them, but I don’t want to elaborate more on that.”

Related: A profile of Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos

-- David Mermelstein

Photo: Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic last summer. Credit: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times