The Dude drops a dud

The Dude drops a dud


norman lebrecht

March 08, 2011

The ascent of Gustavo Dudamel from the streets of Caracas to the heights of maestro fame has been both musical fairy-tale and a case of flawless image management. The fairy-tale continues, but the first blip has just appeared on his hitherto immaculate record.

A Deutsche Grammophon release of three Tchaikovsky Shakespeare suites with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra is one of those productions that adds no value at all – not to Tchaikovsky, nor to Shakespeare, nor to the musicians and their conductor.
The performances are sharp and snazzy as you’d expect, but Hamlet’s torment is barely felt, the Tempest is no more than a summer squall and Romeo and Juliet as among the least romantic accounts I have endured.
Gustavo Dudamel: Tchaikovsky & Shakespeare
Why this should be so is not immediately clear. The recording was made in Caracas last February by a DG team with three named producers. That may have been two too many. Somebody needed to take responsibility, to stand up and tell the Dude to deliver – more passions, more penetration, more value. At 65 minutes long, the record could have been saved by an encore firework.
Sadly, it goes down as a dud.
Gustavo Dudamel: Tchaikovsky & Shakespeare


  • Eduardo Monteiro says:

    As a recording producer and engineer myself, I got the message: three producers sent to a country that is so distant from DG’s Headquarters means: this record will sell by itself. Don’t produce it at all.
    The Shakespeare idea is good by the way.
    And let the Marche Slave to another occasion.

  • mark winn says:

    Look..he has done wonders with a youth orchestra…but thats all…it is only the greed and desperation of the record companies and promotors that has enabled this guy to become as well known as he is..but lets not kid ourselves..he will never be a top rate conductor…just a hairdressers dream!!

  • Chris says:

    Any face appearing under the yellow sign of DG could be taken for a ‘top’ conductor. Any recording of a ‘top’ conductor under the sign of DG could sell as a ‘landmark’ recording. Very good marketing indeed for many decades, alongside luxury engineering and stifled competition! Dudamel is a gifted conductor, no objection, who is overexposed to record industry tricks.

  • MusikAnT says:

    Dudamel has had some bad luck with his DG recordings. None of them really match the reputation he currently commands. His best recording so far on DG was an OK, middle-of-the-road Mahler 5th that poses no threat to the superlative Walter, Gatti, Kondrashin, Kubelik, Solti, Leinsdorf, Tilson Thomas, Schwarz, and Neumann (Gewandhaus) recordings for prime shelf space in my collection.
    Otherwise, his recordings have been lackluster. A positively chaste Tchaikovsky 5th and Francesca da Rimini, sludgy Beethoven, and an unexpectedly sedate Revueltas La noche de los Mayas. His DG Concert recordings haven’t been much better either.
    Maybe he has microphone fright? I’ve seen him live many times now; is certainly a thrilling conductor (if a bit glib).

  • Tony says:

    First I have to say I have not heard this release, but my first thoughts are that maybe Maestro should consider sticking to recording live and avoid control-room interference. The norm most places now is: too many takes, too many edits, too many microphones, too much artificial reverb. We live in a Photoshop Age where external influences try to make everything ‘perfect’ when all that happens in the end is that the life-blood gets drained out of an original performance creating an academic edition – anonymous and boring.

  • Paul says:

    I think that this is a very good example of how celebrity obsessed also the classical music market is these days. The young maestro is being overexposed in repertoire which is very far from his cultural background and into which he probably did not have time to mature.
    Why does DG do not use his name and his cultural background to promote South American music, but puts him in a repertoire which is completely alien to him? If you want to know what I am talking about just look at one of his live recordings of Shostakovich Symphony no. 10. In his and SBYO’s interpretation it looks like a Russian version of Malambo, rather than a portrait of the greatest tyrant in history – Stalin.
    The forceful promotion of conductors such as Robin Ticciatti, Daniel Harding and Gustavo Dudamel in core repertoire erodes the classical music of what we used to love it for – maturity and refinement.
    I don’t care if a conductor is “the youngest ever” to do this or that. All I care is whether they provide performances and recordings which can deliver the quality which can make my head turn. Otherwise we will be slipping into some strange freak show.