Conductor: Gustavo Dudamel
Bernstein: Symphony No 2 for Piano and Orchestra, "The Age of Anxiety"
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 6 in B Minor, Op. 74, "Pathétique"
It is not often that a classical music persona stirs up as much unbridled excitement as a rock star, but young Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel has been managing to do just that for the past couple of years. So now that he's at the head of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, left in pristine condition by Esa-Pekka Salonen, everybody has unsurprisingly been dying to see what this newcomer is really made of. Consequently, the Kennedy Center concert hall was packed to the brim on Monday evening and the frisson of great expectations was undeniably palpable. Of course,the fact that they were playing my beloved "Pathétique" was yet another irresistible incentive for me to go out on that rainy night (Not that I needed any, really), and Bernstein's "Age of Anxiety" with Jean-Yves Thibaudet a nice additional touch.
Half-traditional symphony half-piano concerto, "The Age of Anxiety" has for sure some gripping moments, and Jean-Yves Thibaubet is always an interestingly adventurous artist, so what's not to love? Inspired by Auden's long poem, the piece strives, and often succeeds, to convey a combination of intellectual reflexion and pure exuberance, with the occasional jazzy overtone. The orchestra was obviously very comfortable under the baton of their youthful leader and delivered well.
But the second part was when everybody on stage went whole-heartedly down to real business while performing one of the world's most popular symphonies, Tchaikovsky's immense, magnificent "Pathétique", the one that the man himself put above all his other works. Having such a physical dynamo as Dudamel was of course a huge plus during the most turbulent passages, as the out-and-out energy coming from the barely controlled brass and percussion could attest, but he also dwelled deeply into the most lyrical parts, passionately guiding the luscious violins into streams of pure bliss, sweeping us all away with his refreshingly spontaneous but unmistakeably informed take on this quintessential Romantic masterpiece. As a result, sooner than later everybody in the concert hall seemed to fully revel in the sheer joy of being part of such a musical feast. So yes, DO believe the hype, there is a lot of genuine substance underneath all the marketing flash.
After the unusually long silent, the ovation was so long and frenetic that it got us an extra goodie: the Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut. As hard as it is to follow the "Pathetique", Puccini's ultimate gift perfectly concluded a truly fabulous evening.