Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic at the Barbican

We are just back from a concert of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Gustavo Dudamel at the world’s fourth best orchestra’s (London Symphony Orchestra) home, the Barbican, and it was a riveting performance. This 37 years young Venezuelan-Spanish composer and conductor seems to burst with energy. He is already conducting the 8th best orchestra in the world (LA Phil ), perhaps the coolest orchestra in the world (the Venezuelan youth orchestra), and if this weren’t enough, he’s taking on guest conductor assignments this year at the second best orchestra of the world (Berlin Philharmonic, with whom he’s touring Europe ) and the #3 (Vienna Philharmonic, with whom he’s touring America).

The evening started with Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. I’m no fan of Bernstein and never understood the hype about him, to me his music often has the touch of mere musicals and not classical compositions, I’m regularly missing proper depth, meaning and gravity. However, this piece was very well picked. Composed in 1965 after a two-year break as composer, it is one of the most religious and perhaps thoughtful works of Bernstein. Even if you’re not his biggest fan, you can enjoy the immense skill the performers have to show in order to make the opening sequence and various further parts of the piece happen. Besides, who doesn’t love music that involves two harps.

This photo and the feature photo are (c) Mark Allen, express.co.uk

After a 20-minute break, the evening’s main part started: a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth (and last) Symphony. This piece was the first work Dudamel had performed when he started at the LA Philharmonic in 2009, and it certainly seems close to his heart. I’ve always been a huge admirer of Beethoven, especially of his late period. It’s a well-known fact that due to his hearing problems and, in the end, near-deafness, the great man focused on ever-more extreme melodies, often at great volume, which were easier for him to hear. Beethoven, in a way, became a proper rock’n’roller towards the end, the louder and harder, the better, right up my street, yay. 🤘

Now, what do you do with a work that is already over the top, slightly bonkers, and utterly extreme? Dudamel does the obvious: he switches it up a few notches and turns it into something even more extreme. Highly original and such fun to listen to.

We’re already checking his European tour dates. More of this, please.

For further concert reviews, try our recent posts about Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra or the London Symphony Orchestra. For art and theatre, check out Art, the Play, at the Old Vic, Wish List at the Royal Court, David Hockney at Tate Britain, Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy of Art.

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