Culture Watch: Gustavo Dudamel’s first recordings from Gothenburg


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Gustavo Dudamel and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra: Bruckner, Sibelius, Nielsen.

(Deutsche Grammophon)

Gothenburg is Gustavo Dudamel’s other orchestra. His work with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela is well documented on recording. But this three CD set of Bruckner, Sibelius and Nielsen symphonies, recorded live, is his first with the Swedish orchestra he has led since 2007.


The Gothenburg sound that Dudamel inherited is darker and muskier than we in sunnier climes of L.A. or Caracas are used to. A sense of tradition in Sweden’s second city is unmistakable, but so is Dudamel’s tweaking said tradition.

Sibelius conducted his Second Symphony in Gothenburg. Nielsen conducted his Fourth and Fifth symphonies, also on this set, with the orchestra. Dudamel approaches the scores with a contagious sense of wow, learning odd and wonderful music from musicians in whose DNA it flows.

But he also eggs on these Swedes. The strangeness of Nielsen is gripping. Dudamel’s Sibelius sails on wings of celebration and his excitement at the symphony’s end is over the moon (check out the Finale on YouTube).

Bruckner’s Ninth is more elusive. Dudamel digs into its depths, and there are moments of wondrously moody spiritual intensity and granitic grandeur. Recorded in 2008, it was Dudamel’s first encounter with the composer. A Brucknerian power and maturity are already remarkable, with a promise of depth to come.


Letter from Sweden: Gustavo in Gothenburg


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-- Mark Swed