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Gustavo Dudamel at Disney Hall: What did the critics think?

October 9, 2009 |  6:15 pm


For the last two weeks, it's seemed like L.A. has become the epicenter of the classical music world. Critics and fans from all over the world have descended upon the city to check out this hot young talent named Gustavo Dudamel.

It all culminated Thursday evening at Walt Disney Concert Hall, where the 28-year-old Venezuelan conductor led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a performance of John Adams' new "City Noir" and Mahler's Symphony No. 1.

The gala concert was as much a social event as it was a musical one. Hollywood actors mingled with L.A. Philharmonic board members. Fashion was on everyone's mind. The after-party reportedly stretched to the midnight hour.

Now the dust has settled and the hangovers have worn off. The reviews are starting to come in. Keep reading to find out what the critics thought...

Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "Dudamel led everything with confidence and urgency. I can’t imagine another orchestra that could sell such a piece ['City Noir'] so effectively on the first performance." He added that "Dudamel's conducting is essentially gestural. He can shape a musical phrase and put energy into it so it seems to have a life of its own."

Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times praised the event as "an exceptional and exciting concert by any standard," adding that Dudamel "drew a cranked-up yet subtly colored performance" of Adams' "City Noir." For the Mahler, he wrote that the orchestra's playing "was rough at times, with patchy string tone and scrappy execution."

The Wall Street Journal's David Mermelstein wrote: "If Mr. Dudamel was feeling any pressure, he didn't betray it. True, he looked slightly cowed as he walked purposefully toward the podium ... but he dove right into the largely celebratory music." He faulted Adams' piece for honoring the past "too overtly. Its gestures feel borrowed." But he praised Dudamel's interpretation of the Mahler, describing it as a "fresh and supple work."

Timothy Mangan of the Orange County Register admitted that Dudamel "did not surprise. To use a sports analogy, Dudamel always seems to bring his 'A' game.... His enthusiasm is a given." He added that "City Noir" was difficult to comprehend and that "further acquaintance is necessary."

-- David Ng

Photo: Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic on stage at Disney Hall on Thursday night. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times