Dude has his day in Vienna, next year it’s Muti

Dude has his day in Vienna, next year it’s Muti


norman lebrecht

January 01, 2017

Gustavo Dudamel looked like he was having fun at the New Year’s Day concert, and so did the Vienna Philharmonic.

But that’s so 2017.

Next New Year’s Day will be conducted by Riccardo Muti. It will be his fifth time.


  • V.Lind says:

    It’s one thing to consider Dudamel over-rated, or not to particularly fancy his readings of certain works. But it seems to me to be a little jejune to act as if he has no place on a concert stage, as some contributors around here do. He has held down, to the general satisfaction of a lot of people whose judgment is worth something, several good positions, including Los Angeles. He gets invitations like this, and makes, if this example is anything to go by, a sparkling and happy entertainment of it. It’s STRAUSS, for heaven’s sake, and it’s New Year’s Day and it’s a celebratory occasion that people go to in order to have fun. If going to concerts is to be so sober and intellectual as opposed to entertaining as some of the posse around her constantly preach, it’s no bloody wonder classical music is losing ground.

    Of course one would not want this sort of “fun” at a Mahler or Wagner concert. But Dudamel would not be performing this way at such a thing. What he is doing here is serving the occasion.

    You make Muti’s concert seem very grim in comparison. It will be interesting to see what the Viennese think.

    • Gustavo Dudamel has no moral authority to act on behalf of Venezuelans. He and Jose Antonio Abreu have spent 17 years fawning over the leaders of the most cruel and oppressive government that Venezuela has had throughout its republican history. Previously, they were great Yeomen of previous governments. And if the current opposition came to power red beret to kneel before the new rulers would be removed. Through this farce called “The System” have gone around the world enjoying like kings, staying in 4 star hotels and eating caviar, all with the dollars they deny us the rest of Venezuelans. And who has benefited from that? Abreu and his group. They have used heavy items in dollars and euros to finance a powerful publicity machine that has allowed them to penetrate the most unexpected barriers. They have taken advantage of the ignorance that exists in Venezuela much of the public and leaders in academic music to be sold as the salvation of the country. On behalf of their cause, they have done away with much of the Venezuelan musical institutions that have not been folded to their requirements. And they have kept a complicit silence before the musical debacle of the country. What did they say when Chavez ended the Classic Channel Radio Nacional de Venezuela? That said nothing as he closed the Cultural Broadcasting Station Caracas? What they said nothing when the Chavez regime indiscriminately banned the import of disks? Nothing

    • Hung says:

      Who is young lady in green dress sat next by old man? I’m just curious who is she because camera points at her several times during the concert.

  • MacroV says:

    Understanding that there only two immortal Vienna New Years concerts (those conducted by Kleiber), I thought he did a pretty good job. He had a lot of enthusiasm for an event where it certainly belongs. I’m sure he’ll be back.

  • Tommy says:

    This year’s New Year Concert had a number of “first” performances, which was nice. Especially the choral work with Wiener Singverain was beautiful. Never heard of it and I also missed it’s name, so I guess I will have to turn to the recording? The orchestra is fantastic in this repertoire, but I sense that somehow this was still below par. The Blue Donau lacked all the magic I admire in Karajan’s appearance. It was a nice concert but not one of the great ones, like the Kleiber and Karajan.

    • Leo says:

      I think it was an extract from the merry wives of windsor by Nicolai who had links to the VPO. By the way I thought Dudamel was brilliant and with not a score in sight. Clearly did his homework before hand not like some of the so called great conductors. I think he should do it every year.

    • erich says:

      Dudamel, despite all prophesies to the contrary, made an excellent impression. Totally prepared, conducting from memory, never putting himself to the fore, his natural charm obviously won the orchestra over.
      He’s not Karajan or Kleiber, but do we really need the overrated bandmaster Muti again next year? Let’s see what Thielemann does in 2019.

      • DESR says:

        Not sure the conductor is announced more than a year ahead. So you are either being wicked or well-informed. Or both!

      • sassoc says:

        All fine, we don’t really need Muti that much ; nor too much.
        But do we need Thielemann, the selfie copy-Karajan ?

        • DESR says:

          Yes, we do. Not quite as interesting to look at as the Dude, but the content, sense of tradition and the phrasing will be there. He knows this music.

          And the Viennese love him.

          Which may not please you, but people at a party like to enjoy their party… and for their host to know who they are, and why they are there.

          • saasa says:

            Well, imho Thielemann’s super ego gets a little too much in the way of inner music. As with Karajan in his later years.
            Cf., for example, Thielemann’s Tristan in Bayreuth, too much aplomb, it wasn’t about Tristan but about Thielemann. Just my opinion.

  • Ludwig says:

    There are conductors…and then there are Maestros(Karajan+Kleiber)!

  • Michael B. says:

    The reality is that no one in Los Angeles who really matters cares a rodent’s posterior about the quality or performance of the orchestra. The only things they care about is the weekly movie box office grosses, the dresses worn by celebrities at the awards ceremonies where Hollywood types congratulate themselves for being famous, and the flashy, gas-guzzling sports cars driven by said celebrities. Although Dudamel can be great, he can also be unprepared, sloppy, and inconsistent.

    • Lulu says:

      But he wasn’t. He WAS prepared, in charge, happy and professional. The orchestra were obviously happy – smiling and playing their hearts out! Charming. What a lovely way to start this year. What’s wrong with you guys wanting to see the worst instead of the best in people?

      • Rgiarola says:

        That’s the point. We saw the worst today, not the best in people. Why we should agree? He had been the biggest lie in classical music in the last 50 years or more. A unique product of marketing and merchandise. The best that petrol and blood money can buy. Goebbels is envy.

      • Rgiarola says:

        That’s the point. We saw the worst today, not the best in people. Why we should agree? He had been the biggest lie in classical music in the last 50 years or more. A unique product of marketing and merchandise. The best that petrol and blood money can buy. Goebbels is envy that he was not the author.

    • V.Lind says:

      I find it an astonishing assertion that a city the size of Los Angeles does not have a classical music audience that is both knowledgeable and discerning. Isn’t the LA Phil well regarded? Alex Ross certainly thinks it is very good, and it has won a Grammy under Dudamel (Brahms 4, as I recall), and both he and the orchestra have won various awards since he took over.

      Thomas Adès and John Adams seem to have time for the LA Phil. Esa-Pekka Salonen would surely not have hung around to play to philistines.

      We could REALLY do with a little less snobbery around here. As I said above, feel free to criticise his readings of some things, but the LA Phil is a success under his baton and this concert would appear to have been one too. Better, perhaps, to produces some evidence of he really screws up rather than sneering at a triumph.

      • Sue says:

        I saw the LAPO under “the Dude” in the Musikverein in 2011 and they were just wonderful. I felt there was very little discernible difference between all the world’s top orchestras that year in the wonderful Viennese venue.

  • Gustav says:

    Appalling. I am so angry!!

    And to think Gustav Mahler stood in that hall.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who can see what’s going on here.

    • Etienne says:

      Are you a musician, Gustav? I have played with Claudio Abbado for many years a.o. in the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and the Orchestra Mozart Bologna and I can assure you that it’d have been a pleasure for me to play with Gustavo Dudamel in this New Year’s concert. His conducting was very much on top of things, relaxed, energetic, elegant and witty.

      • Talking the talk says:

        Etienne, congrats! You’ve have managed to illustrate why to a large degree orchestral culture is going in the wrong direction currently.

        Given that the majority of your colleagues most probably agree with you- it does seem that way- and these days they have such a big influence on a conductors success or not. And if, on the whole, you all mostly choose and go with a conductor that gives you a ‘relaxed, energetic, elegant…’ experience – or at least a very good impression of one- because it makes your life more pleasant and easier then the musical result is variations on Dudamel.

        With few exceptions the equation is very simple

        musicians desire for a relaxed, cosier, feel good, working life + democracy = mediocre conductor and music making.

        • Gustav says:

          And that Danube was as flat as hell.

        • Freddynyc says:

          Agree – another case in point: Alan Gilbert. He was selected by the musicians in the NYP for precisely those reasons – oh, and because no one else wanted the job…..

          • M2N2K says:

            For better or possibly in some cases for worse, musicians in American orchestras do not “select” their principal conductors, so all of this ignorant speculation is nonsense.

          • Etienne says:

            Oh, for heaven’s sake…:) It goes without saying that I disagree completely. Firstly, if you think it’s orchestra musician’s “problem”, Talking the talk, why don’t you ask Simon Rattle or Daniel Barenboim what they think of Gustavo Dudamel’s artistic qualities – and his potential to develop further. I can add that I know of some extraordinary, if not legendary, musicians who have so far been somewhat skeptical of Gustavo’s musicianship (as are and have been many orchestra musicians as well, btw) who were very satisfied with and inspired by his performance in this New Year’s concert.
            Secondly, in my experience it’s completely untrue that orchestra musicians look for “lazy”, artistically uninspiring working situations, that’s quite a misrepresentation there. Rather, they look for a wide variety of high-quality artistic, expressive directions. For many, Gustavo Dudamel is one of the best of a particular direction. I’d challenge you to develop a sensibility and esteem for this direction, even if it’s not a traditional one and not the one you aesthetically prefer. Would orchestra musicians always want to work with Gustavo, and for all repertoire? Of course not.
            And certainly also in this concert not everything was equal: the Danube was also not my preferred piece, Gustav. But then again, some musician friends who I respect a lot thought it was particularly extraordinary so I’ll go back and listen to see whether I hear what convinced them so much.
            Lastly, and that’s a whole different, independent dimension but I think it’s important to mention: around the world, motivated young musicians of all ages have listened to and watched this New Year’s concert with great pride since they feel that Gustavo Dudamel is one of them. Thousands have either had the opportunity to rehearse with him in their local youth orchestras, have witnessed their peers do so or know children or adolescents of their age who have. If you’ve ever seen their glowing eyes, and I have a lot, you know what I mean. Don’t think that any of the other excellent conductors of this concert in past years have had anything like this motivational impact for a young generation. I’m not saying that often there isn’t a layer of marketing and hype in music industry that is disturbing and off-putting. But sometimes there are also other layers that are worth bringing to the foreground.

  • Gustav says:

    …… and Riccardo Muti is a very great conductor!

  • George hlawiczka says:

    I’m afraid I am not ashamed to agree with Gustav.
    He is a good conductor but how can anyone dispute that he is far from being able to inspire on a level as one of the great conductors or instrumentalists.
    The world today is full of fake news and adulation of lesser men.

  • Rgiarola says:

    Until this year, this January first concert, the Viena Philharmoniker and Viena audience had been consistelly considered outdated, square and even evil. Many times I’ve read here at this blog that do not matter the conductot too much, since they don’t have too much rehearsal for this concert, plus the fact that this orchestra can play this repertorie by heart and closed eyes. It had been consider like that by many ones including our beloved blog mentor. Now on 2017 it is a beloved thing, a great moment in the concert calendar, and the conductor made difference now and also it is important the fact the he had “fun” doing it.
    I was aware about it even before today’s concert. I am also aware about the same headlines here in this blog, if for example Alan Gilbert was the conductor. Nothing change since 2009, besides all predictions that NY would fail and LA made the hell of a choice that would change the whole classical music forever blablabla. I still have this radio interview and I was listening again today.
    How long we will see temptatives to prove that Jesus is the messiah? Altough now even the messiah deny it, directly from Rodeo drive.
    No problem at all. No hard fellings. I am anxious to see LA times review about this concert. I am sure I will have “fun” reading it.
    Happy new year to all Blog colleagues, and specially to our mentor that I really follow and admire

  • Bviolinistic says:

    Dudamel is a very talented conductor and a lovely person as well. Just my opinion.

  • Winfred Ng says:

    Am I the only one who finds Kleiber’s New Year’s performances a bit too high strung and hurried – perhaps fine for the polkas but certainly not for the waltzes. For my tastes, Karajan and Pretre have set the standard for these concerts – perfect ensemble, judicious tempi and sensitive phrasing have set their performances a cut above the rest….

  • J. BASS says:

    If people want to know why I think Dudamel is overrated, then there’s no one better to explain why than a truly legendary conductor:

    “Perhaps the chief requirement of [the conductor] is that he be humble before the composer; that he never interpose himself between the music and the audience; that all his efforts, however strenuous or glamorous, be made in the service of the composer’s meaning – the music itself, which, after all, is the whole reason for the conductor’s existence.” – Leonard Bernstein

    • Erich says:

      Such a pity he didn’t follow his own advice!!!!

    • M2N2K says:

      There is hardly any doubt that Leonard Bernstein was an extraordinarily talented musician, but in terms of “interpos[ing] himself between the music and the audience” he was one of the worst offenders — certainly much more so than Gustavo Dudamel is these days.

    • J. BASS says:

      And if that’s not enough, here’s another one:

      “Conductors must give unmistakable and suggestive signals to the orchestra, not choreography to the audience.” – George Szell

      • M2N2K says:

        The two are not mutually exclusive. Effective signals to the orchestra are primary of course, but the truth is that most listeners do watch the conductor quite a lot and what they see affects the way they experience the music.

  • Wai Kit leung says:

    The TV station that covered this in Hong Kong went under last year, so unfortunately I couldn’t watch this. Is it true that live tickets have to be ordered five years in advance?

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    A conductor is not necessary for Johann Strauss & Co. Originally Strauss “conducted” most of his works as concertmaster. Retrospectively, the most exciting (dare I say “authentic”) recordings of Vienna’s New Year’s Day concert were surely those conducted by VPO concertmaster Willy Boskovsky.

  • herrera says:

    1) I was excited then quickly disappointed, Dudamel did nothing for my personal favorite sentimental music of all time, Waldteufel’s Les Patineurs. It was heavy handed and it dragged… I felt the skaters were skating on slush from global warming.

    2) Did Vienna round up every single woman and Asian player and forced them to work on New Year”s Day just to show off how diverse the orchestra is supposed to be?

    3) Go Muti. They should do it like the Olympics, the conductor who just finished hands off his flaming baton to the next conductor.

  • Milan Brommel says:

    Dudamel conducted with charm, lightness, and elegance, and made a positive impression. It was less boring than in recent years, although not as memorable as Pretre, Harnoncourt, or Ozawa, who each left an unique interpretative mark.
    Karajan’s had beautiful moments like the Blue Danube, but he was so sick and infirm by that point and led the light numbers with a heaviness and sclerotic morbidity — nothing on the Neujahrskonzert master Lorin Maazel (who would have conducted in 2017 and 2019), whose élan, humor, and perfect technique delighted on each of the 10 occasions he conducted (1986 particularly memorable).

  • Dave T says:

    Was this even broadcast in the US this year? Regardless, I didn’t miss it one little bit. Have grown tired of these schlagfests, especially since they jumped-the-shark some years back with the introduction of those insufferable ballet sequences– filmed outdoors, in July!

    Watched the season premier of Sherlock, instead. Now that was good.

  • Gustav says:

    What’s with the audience anyway? I don’t see any poor people. Seems to be the same monied type each year. I’ve tried for the seven years to get a ticket, absolute pants.

    • DESR says:

      Your last sentence is not a recognisable sentence but a stream of British consciousness. Or satire perhaps?

    • Pedro says:

      Just go there and buy a ticket at the doors. That’s how I managed to attend the Karajan, the first Kleiber and the first Janssons concerts. And don’t forget that the concert is preceded by two other performances on December 30 and 31. You might manage to attended three New Year concerts in the same trip.

      • Sue says:

        Don’t forget to tell the folks that under those circumstance you’ll be STANDING at the back – light years from the orchestra, and downstairs.

    • Wai kit Leung says:

      I too noticed the audience to be extremely well-dressed. Would anyone poorly-dressed be turned down at the entrance?

      • Sue says:

        Wake up to yourself!! If they don’t have a ticket and they’re all sold out the door is the action of next consequence.

        • Wai Kit leung says:

          You seem rather agitated by my inquiry. Let me rephrase it: if I have a ticket to the event and show up poorly-dressed, will I be refused at the door? I am just curious if everyone knows instinctively to dress well for the event, or there were those poorly dressed who got screened out at the door.

          • Bviolinistic says:

            It is a concert that celebrates the beginning of the New Year. Tickets are not easy or cheap to obtain, and as you know, it is televised world wide. I think people who come want to make sure that they are well dressed because of the occasion. However, to answer your question, I doubt very much that if you were not wearing an expensive suit (or dress) that you would be asked to leave, or not be admitted; it would simply look unusual. But this sense of occasion is not only observed for the New Year concert in Vienna… It is very common all over the world, including Hong Kong

  • Rafael says:

    Shamefully a bunch of the donors are laundering money through their donations, it has become an elitesque event, on the other side dudamel is rising on the crest of the wave but his country is heading to be the poorest in the world and he support the regime that control the power and most importantly for him, the MONEY

  • Rgiarola says:

    Why Andre Previn was not invited up to now? He is so close to this orchestra and light repertoire

    • Gustav says:

      Missed opportunity. Previn’s health not too good these days. He’s 87. Yes a prime contender for this these concerts. Have the VPO ever invited him?

  • Wendy says:

    Who was the young lady in the green dress in the audience that he camera kept turning to ? Obviously a young woman of important in Austria. I would love to see Zubin Mehta come back to this concert once more. He is wonderful.