Good morning, Dudamel. You’re middle-aged now

Good morning, Dudamel. You’re middle-aged now


norman lebrecht

January 26, 2020

The conductor Gustavo Dudamel is 39 today, on the threshold of middle-age.

He has a steady job at the LA Phil that will keep him at Disney Hall until 2026 and he has taken Spanish citizenship for protection against ongoing Venezuelan turmoil and US visa contractions.

He is mid-career, nicely set, conducting film tracks for Spielberg.

Where next?

Happy birthday, Gustavo!


  • JP says:

    High time then to drop his YEC bonus (for youth, exoticism and cuddliness) bonus and assess his music-making for what it is: not even mediocre. Name one modestly memorable recording Mr Dudamel has made. Anyone?

    • Rob says:

      The Angelenos loved Salonen.

    • JP says:

      One bonus too many. Sorry.

    • Dude Skeptic says:

      I was a longtime Dude skeptic too, but then I saw him conduct Rigoletto at the Met. Much as I wanted to hate him, he was terrific. I’ve never heard the Met orchestra play with such continued intensity. The opera is the ultimate test, and he passed with flying colors. Hype aside, he’s the real deal.

      • Ari Bocian says:

        I think you mean Otello, which he conducted in the 2018-19 season as his Met debut. Either way, I saw him conduct that as well, and it was outstanding. So was his Otello at the Hollywood Bowl in July of 2018. In fact, all of the operas I’ve seen him conduct at the Hollywood Bowl (Carmen, Rigoletto, Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci, Turandot) were fantastic, in my opinion.

    • Jack says:

      The New York Times this week might disagree with you on that. I doubt that all the major orchestras in the world who have engaged him wouldn’t think about hiring someone who is “not even mediocre”. So JP, I think that’s turning into a rather tired trope, the sort that one hears from the claque of perpetually opinionated and grumpy commenters here on SlippedDisk.

      Just to amuse yourself, why not read the review from his concert at the NY Phil last week.

      Gustavo Dudamel Excels, Yet Again, at the New York Philharmonic

    • Cubs Fan says:

      Fiesta. Pretty damned good. The Mahler 7th with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra – excellent, one of the best. The Nutcracker…well, nice try – but he’s no ballet conductor and it was a totally unneeded recording.

    • Ken says:

      Agreed. Got plenty o’ nothin’.

    • Gustavo says:

      Star Wars: The Force Awakens

    • C Porumbescu says:

      So a conductor’s achievement is measured by recordings now?

      Hard to know where to begin with such a profoundly unmusical comment.

      • Hypeking says:

        There isn’t anything profound here my friend…it is jus hype sin e the beginning, with the very same names dropped due to petrol money, inside the music business. Dudamel is the “money talks and bulshit walks” ever due to fat pockets

    • Balanced critic says:

      He’s getting better with age, like every conductor focused on self-improvement.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      Mahler 9. It’s as good as any in my collection (which is big). Also, if you want a Mahler 8 with a full one thousand people involved, he’s your go-to guy (dvd only). His Mahler 7 is very good too, considering that it’s not with the L.A. Phil., but with his Simon Bolivar orchestra. His Richard Strauss disc with the Berlin Phil. is quite good as well. Granted, you could just stand up, give the Berliners a downbeat and then walk off. I wouldn’t expect him to ‘beat’ Karajan, Klemperer, Bohm, etc., when it comes to the standard Austro-German line (Beethoven, Brahms, etc.). In addition, his early “Fiesta” disc is outstanding. I very much like his “Pictures” with the Vienna Phil. It’s very straight forward, but very well played.

    • PHF says:

      Actually, you could name one of your own. Enlighten us, please.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      I particularly enjoyed Dude’s Concerto for Orchestra with the LA Phil.
      “Fiesta” is great.
      And he seems to be very good in Mahler.

    • Evan Tucker says:

      Listen for yourself. This Symphonie Fantastique is worthy to take its place alongside Munch, Bernstein, Davis, Jansons, whomever else you want to mention…

    • KobeFanNumeroUno says:

      LOL, the Grammy-winning recording of Sustain is a nice example. You are seriously misguided.

    • RLP says:

      I was at his concerts on 1/21/2020 and 1/23/2020 (different programs). He was absolutely brilliant. On 1/21, the 3 musicians who went with me said they have NEVER heard Dvorak’s 9th expressed that way–with such newness, verve, phrasing and dynamics. We were all in absolute awe. “Das Lied von Der Erde” (1/23) was heart-stopping. At the end of the Mahler, he held the silence after the final note for, at least, 15 seconds–as the note rose to the heavens. The audience was holding its collective breath. There was DEAD SILENCE. When he finally dropped his hands, the place erupted like a riot; like a rock concert. 2 indescribably superb performances, about which the NY Times was correct. AND THEN, tonight, he was awarded a Grammy for the Best Orchestral Performance.

      75. Best Orchestral Performance
      Award to the Conductor and to the Orchestra.

      Manfred Honeck, conductor (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra)

      Leonard Slatkin, conductor (Detroit Symphony Orchestra)

      Gustavo Dudamel, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic)

      Louis Langrée, conductor (Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra)

      Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, conductor (City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Kremerata Baltica)

      It’s always open season on Dudamel. That’s what happens to someone who’s at the top of the game and no one is coming close.

  • Bass One says:

    39 threshold of middle age? Bollocks.

  • NYMike says:

    At NY Phil last night, his Schubert #4 was boring. Mahler Lied von der Erde was much better.

  • Marcia S says:

    Over the past six seasons, we’ve attended over 25 classical performances each season at the Hollywood Bowl, and never miss a Dudamel presentation. We have other favorite conductors who we will see if the music is inspiring, but Dudamel never fails to inspire the orchestra AND the audience. Attending a live performance means that you are personally a part of the event. Dudamel conducts not only the musicians, but uses the energy of the audience to create beautiful performance art. You cannot contain that kind of genius in a static recording.

  • MusicBear88 says:

    Love his Tchaikovsky 5 and Mahler 5 with the Simon Bolivar orchestra. Vienna Philharmonic “Pictures” is well-played if a little on the safe side, but seeing the entire Boston Symphony smiling as they played Rite of Spring with him was really something inspiring.

    I was disappointed in the Nutcracker recording since he’s good with Tchaikovsky. It’s not bad but it’s nothing special like Ozawa or Ansermet. It is, however, worlds better than Gergiev who sounds like he had somebody yelling “make sure it fits on one disc!!!” at him the entire time.

  • Alexander Tarak says:

    Middle aged and IMO pretty dull.

  • Evan Tucker says:

    Dudamel came up much much too fast, but he is as talented as a conductor gets. I’ve heard him give a Mahler 3 of a lifetime in New York and a Rite of Spring in DC just as wonderful. I also heard a Rite in New York that was as boring as the DC performance ten years earlier was inspired.

    For better or worse, like many conductors, Lenny, Barenboim, Rattle he has to learn his trade in the full glare of the spotlight, and he is such a name that he will get an infinity of chances to prove himself, and at 65 he will be fully deserving of his reputation, but if he had come up away from the spotlight the way K. Petrenko, or FX Roth, or Honeck did, he might have already been a pantheon-worthy conductor.

  • Hypeking says:

    Next? Ohohohohoho…what the hype prevent him from something? Are you afraid that people will thing he is goof? Really?

  • Linda Fields says:

    Oh please!! Get over yourselves! This guy is still a kid-musically speaking and otherwise. When you look at the great musicians-look at Tilson-Thomas for example, they’re still going strong at 70, and 80 years young. 39? That’s still a very young man! He’s got years ahead of him and I expect great things yet from him.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Tilson-Thomas a great musician? Really? He is just about competent and really very pleasant (which orchestras like).

      Most major conductors, such as Karajan, Bernstein, etc. have pretty much established their reputation by the time they are 40. As Norman said, he really is no longer a kid.

  • John says:

    He’s been middle age for about 5 years now.