Gustavo Dudamel, L.A. Philharmonic conclude European tour in Vienna


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Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic concluded their 15-day European tour this weekend with two concerts at the Musikverein in Vienna. The programs consisted of pieces by Beethoven, Bernstein and John Adams on one hand, and Mahler’s 90-minute Ninth Symphony on the other.

The tour was Dudamel’s first international voyage as music director of the L.A. Philharmonic. (Last season, he traveled on a U.S. tour with the orchestra.) The European tour also included stops in Lisbon; Madrid; London; Paris; Cologne, Germany; and Budapest, Hungary.


A lot happened during the European tour. Dudamel turned 30 on Jan. 26, and that was followed by the orchestra’s announcement that he will be staying on as music director through the 2018-19 season. In addition, the orchestra announced its 2011-12 season, which will include a trip to Caracas, Venezuela.

The orchestra’s appearance in Vienna was seen as the climax of the tour. It was at the Musikverein where Mahler himself conducted some of his music. Reviewers at the final concerts were not very enthusiastic ...

The critic for Der Standard wrote that the orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony was ‘a unique joy... sensitive, smart and precise,’ while the performances of the Adams and Bernstein pieces were ‘rather disappointing.’ As for Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, the critic wrote that the first three movements left much to be desired, with a ‘mechanical’ and ‘sharp-edged’ sound in the first and second movements. A reviewer for Wiener Zeitung wrote that the orchestra’s performance of Adams’ ‘Slonimsky’s Earbox’ was ‘razor-sharp’ and that the musicians were able to negotiate the piece’s different rhythmic levels. As for Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, the reviewer described the performance of the final movement as ‘gaudy.’

The Die Presse reviewer wrote that the performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony was mostly a ‘literal interpretation of the notes taken seriously’ and that only occasionally were there ‘expansive, eloquent gestures.’ The reviewer described Dudamel as a ‘shy, humble man’ and noted that he conducted the piece from memory.

In a review of the orchestra’s weekend appearance in Cologne, Germany, a critic for the General-Anzeiger wrote that the orchestra ‘paid attention to every atmospheric nuance’ of Mahler’s Ninth and that the piece was ‘meticulously realized by the orchestra.’

A reviewer for the French website wrote that Dudamel’s interpretation of the Mahler ‘wasn’t as convincing, and didn’t always succeed at eliciting emotions’ as he had done with the other program. The reviewer added that Dudamel still seems to be looking for his own style in the Mahler, as shown through his choice of chaotic tempos, ‘all of which reconfirms our belief that this piece is a mature work and that Dudamel needs time to construct his own vision of the symphony.’


[For the record: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that Mahler conducted his Ninth Symphony in Vienna.]


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-- David Ng

Photo (top): Gustavo Dudamel. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Photo (bottom): Dudamel, backstage at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times