Gustavo Dudamel’s first Los Angeles Philharmonic season


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Gustavo Dudamel will begin his first season as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducting Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Hollywood Bowl. And as a gift to the city, all 18,000 tickets to a daylong program Oct. 3 culminating with the performance, called ‘Bienvenido Gustavo,’ will be free.

The details of the 2009-10 season were to be revealed at a Walt Disney Concert Hall news conference today with Dudamel in attendance. They have been a matter of much speculation, given how rapidly the young Venezuelan conductor, who will turn 28 on Monday, has achieved an international superstar status not only within the classical music world but also, increasingly, outside it.


Dudamel will lead eight weeks of subscription concerts of widely mixed repertory and will premiere five of the nine new works commissioned by the philharmonic for the coming season. His concerts also will include a major sampling of other recent music, among it some of the most successful works written for the philharmonic in recent years, along with music from Latin America and works by Verdi, Mozart, Mahler and other traditional composers. (UPDATE: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Dudamel would lead nine weeks of subscription concerts.)

Calling Los Angeles a magical city, Dudamel said Wednesday shortly after arriving in town from New York, where he had been conducting the New York Philharmonic, that he wanted to continue in the tradition of Esa-Pekka Salonen in making the orchestra a center for innovation.

“Here is a tradition of new things, not old things, and it is an example for orchestras all over the world,” he said.

Dudamel’s Disney Hall season will begin with a gala Oct. 8 that will be televised later on PBS. John Adams has been commissioned to write a symphony for the occasion titled “City Noir,” and the concert will conclude with Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. (UPDATE: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the gala would take place Oct. 9 and that PBS would televise the concert live.)

The commission also will signal Adams’ new role with the orchestra as creative chair. He will organize a festival of California music, “West Coast: Left Coast,” that will include concerts conducted by Dudamel, Leonard Slatkin and the composer himself. Among the participants will the Kronos Quartet, which also will have a new role with the philharmonic as ensemble in residence.

The festival will run from Nov. 21 to Dec. 8 and cover many aspects of the West Coast scene. Among the highlights will be an appearance by composer Terry Riley playing the Disney organ; the premiere of a concerto for the Kronos and orchestra by Thomas Newman; and music by Frank Zappa and Harry Partch. Dudamel will conduct Salonen’s “LA Variations” and Lou Harrison’s Piano Concerto (with Marino Formenti as soloist). The festival will conclude with a jazz concert celebrating the Beat Generation.


A second festival in the spring, “America and the Americas,” will be directed by Dudamel. “We tend to think of music of the Americas by looking south,” Philharmonic President Deborah Borda explained in her office earlier Wednesday. “But Gustavo starts in South America and looks north.”

Highlights of that festival, which will begin with a youth concert April 10 and conclude May 4 with a Green Umbrella program of new works conducted by Dudamel, will be a performance of Osvaldo Golijov’s popular “Pasión Según San Marco” led by Venezuelan conductor Maria Guinand and Antonio Estévez’s “Cantata Criolla” conducted by Dudamel.

Calling the 1954 cantata the first important Venezuelan work, Dudamel said he would present it in a theatrical version directed by filmmaker Alberto Arvelo. Also in the festival will be a concert led by Dudamel with Peter Lieberson’s “Neruda Songs,” sung by Kelley O’Connor, and Leonard Bernstein’s “The Age of Anxiety,” with Jean-Yves Thibaudet as piano soloist.

During the season, Dudamel will premiere major works by the Korean composer Unsuk Chin (Concerto for Sheng and Orchestra) and Los Angeles composer Steven Hartke (Symphony No. 4 “Organ”). With the exception of the evening-long Verdi Requiem, which Dudamel will conduct the first week in November, he will mix standard repertory with more contemporary works. For instance, he will pair Mozart symphonies and Berg’s Violin Concerto (with Gil Shaham as soloist) and Schubert with Luciano Berio. He also will take the orchestra on a two-week U.S. tour in May.

As usual, a number of guest conductors will appear throughout the season. Andrey Boreyko, Robin Ticciati and Jaap van Zweden will make their philharmonic debuts. Among the maestros returning will be Christoph Eschenbach, Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, Herbert Blomstedt, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Charles Dutoit, James Conlon, Edo de Waart, Semyon Bychkov and Thomas Adès.

The orchestra’s current music director, Esa-Pekka Salonen, will not appear next season, Borda said, by his own choice. But the welcome mat is out, and he has agreed to at least two weeks in each of several succeeding seasons.


With the largest budget of any American orchestra -- $92 million -- the philharmonic will continue to present expensive touring orchestras in 2009-10, and that roster will include two concerts by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Simon Rattle.

Nor has the weak economy, at least yet, meant a diminishment of Baroque concerts, new music programs, solo recitals, and jazz and world music concerts. A particularly ambitious import from Amsterdam will be a semi-staged performance of Louis Andriessen’s latest opera, “La Commedia.”

Emanuel Ax will conclude his “On Location” residency with premieres of new works commissioned by the orchestra from Adams, Golijov and Lieberson. He also will appear in a joint recital with cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

-- Mark Swed