The Vienna Philharmonic does not have a music director or any kind of principal conductor. The orchestra is managed by the players themselves. So being asked to guest conduct for more than a single program, and better still being invited to tour with the orchestra, is one of the great honors in the business.
Beginning with a pair of concerts at the Salzburg Festival this weekend, Gustavo Dudamel will spend five weeks with this exclusive band, giving concerts in Vienna and on tour at the Lucerne Festival and in Germany and Asia. The Asian component is the largest and it will include Dudamel and the Viennese opening a new concert hall in Shanghai with acoustics by Walt Disney Concert Hall’s Yasuhisa Toyota.
The good news is that this Sunday’s Salzburg concert will be shown live on medici.tv. The bad news is that the morning performance begins at 2 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. But medici.tv (which is a pay service) does tend to provide delayed streaming for a few weeks for most events, although the site gives no advance notice of this.
Still, this is a chance to check on just how deeply Dudamel’s relationship with Vienna must be growing. The program revolves around Richard Strauss, this year being the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth, with “Death and Transfiguration” and “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.” But also included is a new piece, "Time Recycling," by René Staar, a longtime violinist in the orchestra.
Indeed, this is the first piece in 170 years that the orchestra has commissioned from one of its own, and it had its premiere in Vienna in the spring, conducted by Semyon Bychkov. Now Dudamel will take it on tour. And Staar indicates in his program note that the lyrical passages in the 22-minute Modernist score were inspired by Bychkov, but the motoric rhythms and Latin American dance elements have Dudamel written all over them.
"Time Recyling," in general, is a meditation on the nature of time as we experience it in the 21st century, especially the way the Internet abolishes our sense of past and present. Staar also points out that he “didn’t want to get into fantasies about time machines, such as can be found in some (particularly older Hollywood) science fiction films.”
Maybe not. But don't expect Dudamel to stop time-tripping through Hollywood. His final performance of “Time Recycling” on tour will be in Tokyo on Sept. 24. Less than a week later, he will open the new L.A. Phil season in Disney with a tribute to John Williams, including time-warp Hollywood scores to “The Adventures of TinTin” and “Star Wars.”