Dudamel gets 7-minute ovation; NY Times calls it bland

Dudamel gets 7-minute ovation; NY Times calls it bland


norman lebrecht

May 21, 2023

The Associated Press reports a 7-minute standing ovation for Gustavo Dudamel in David Geffen Hall at the end of Mahler’s ninth symphony.

Zachary Woolfe reviewed the concert at great length in the New York Times. Here’s a taster:

‘Dudamel achieved in this sprawling, complex and bracing score a kind of casualness. He gave a sense of this as just another piece….

‘Missing from the evening was a certain degree of personality and depth… it’s not clear that love-fest is the right mood for much of Mahler’s Ninth.’




  • Operapass says:

    Leave it up to Zachary Wolfe to give us a lifeless and intellectually devoid take on a musical piece. He’s finding his rhythm.

  • Emil says:

    Is that long? Walk-out, walk-in, walk-out, walk-in, walk-out, etc. takes its time. In Montréal, I know, conductors/soloists systematically get three bows, no matter what. I wouldn’t be surprised if that took about 7 minutes.

  • MMcGrath says:

    OOoooooh. More arrogant, ill-informed, condescending, pseudo-intellectual, self-aggrandizing rot from the … ultra-liberal press, here the NYT. Now telling us what to feel and how to act when in a performance of Mahler 9.

    Jesus! I thought this kind of stuff went out with the dinosaurs like music critic Joachim Kaiser in the Munich Sueddeutsche Zeitung, who regularly reminded readers how little they knew or understood about what they’d just experienced at the Staatsoper Munich.

    • Nelson says:

      About as arrogant as YOUR post. That’s ok, you can have your smurfs Mahler 9.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Bravo. Couldn’t agree more about those insular virtue-signallers at Pravda 1. Navel-gazing, pontificating and finger-wagging is their lamentable schtick.

      • Max Raimi says:

        Not rigorous journalism like Newsmax or Fox? I get The American Spectator emailed to me daily, and make a point of reading it until I’ve had a bellyful. The NYT has its faults, Lord knows, but it is on a completely different level of integrity and standards than any of the right wing organs at this point. Save the Wall Street Journal, as long as you steer clear of the fever swamp that constitutes its opinion pages.

      • Krunoslav says:

        You have some nerve talking about anyone else’s shtick! Only someone unacquainted with PRAVDA and the real horrors of the Soviet system could be intellectually feeble enough to
        term the NYT PRAVDA 2. But then you are always like a broken record of gleefully uninformed Trumpworld nonsense.

    • VeronicaW says:

      Given that I”m ultra-liberal and don’t like Mr. Woolfe, your faux confluence of liberalism and what you consider a weak/bad review is a large pile of crap. But, thanks for playing.

  • The View from America says:

    A “breezy” performance of the Mahler 9 would seem par for the course for this conductor.

  • samach says:


    But then again, the NY Phil didn’t hire him for his Mahler, they hired him for the hype, for the audience and for the media.

    Looks like Dudamel conquered the former but has his work cut out for him in the latter.

    Anyway, he’ll only be 45 when he finally takes over, he’s still young, he has time to mature.

    • Don says:

      It was a phenomenal performance. Absolutely inspiring, deep and moving. Highlight of the season. Woolfe is ridiculous.

  • Mark says:

    I really did not care for the his Mahler 9th recording with the LA Phil. I found it episodic in that it seems to be detached (perhaps breezy) until a loud climax. Some interesting effects from the woodwinds made the piece sound more like a concerto for orchestra. Some very fine playing from the LA Phil when the strings aren’t being overwhelmed by the brass and percussion. While this approach might be somewhat reminiscent of Bernstein, and not necessarily to my liking too, Bernstein’s focus on spirit was frequently the end game.

    • Nick2 says:

      Re Mark’s comment, the thread is about Mahler 9 with the NYPO – not a recording with the LA Phil. How do you know it was exactly the same interpretation? Highly unlikely!

  • Beat the Hoven says:

    On the same day, pianist Bruce Liu played 7 encores to an enthusiastic audience on his debut at Carnegie Hall so 7 min ovation for Mr. Hollywood’s big day shouldn’t be that big deal, no? Yes yes, they need to the build the hype of Dudamel for his new position but I guess NY Times just didn’t get the memo

  • Rob014 says:

    I read the review. I found it very balanced—I think Wolff is one of the great critics on the scene now, and I trust his judgments. He has standards—like Michael Steinberg did.

    • Nancy S says:

      As a long-time San Francisco Symphony subscriber, I greatly appreciated Michael Steinberg’s reviews, but like Wolff, he often wrote for the most sophisticated of listeners.

  • Iphigenia in Aulide says:

    Who cares what the wokest of wokest NYT says? Go Gustavo, go!

  • NYMike says:

    At last night’s Mahler 9th performance, I was FINALLY satisfied with the sound balance of the orchestra. There was deep rumbling bass and precise winds/brass/percussion that didn’t overwhelm the strings. Guest principal horn Stefan Dohr from the BPO played flawlessly without the need for an ass’t. While the Dude’s interpretation wasn’t the deepest I’ve ever heard, it was serviceable.

  • Jon says:

    It is an excellent review. I attended and shared Mr. Woolfe’s views, although he articulated them more succintly than I could have. I only disagree about Mr. Dohr, who sounded great. The other horns were terribly out of tune.
    Maestro was capable but lacking a vision of the piece.

  • Paul Sekhri says:

    I was there. It was a stunning performance. Absolutely stunning. He deserved an ovation 3 times as long. Full stop.

  • Mr. Ron says:

    I have heard countless musical numbers performed by the Dude on record. All have been outstanding.

  • Viola Bradley says:

    That’s a strange AI photo/ artwork/ whatever that picture is supposed to be. Also, why is everyone in here so angry??

  • VeronicaW says:

    His review–if you read the entire thing–is contradictory throughout. Clearly, the audience loved the piece (NY is not shy about showing disapproval), and they buy the tickets. Feh on Mr. Woolfe and his sour grapes.

  • Back Row Truth says:

    The musicians love him, which is all that really matters.

  • Guy says:

    I remember the Boston Symphony getting a 5 minute standing ovation before even playing a note when they came on stage in Symphony Hall for the first time in 2 years after the pandemic.

  • Lapo member says:

    So now, no mention of Hollywood glitz, like all the cliche, cleverless, tired creativeless reviewers when the LA Phil plays on the East Coast.

  • Sara K. says:

    most elite/trust funders/hyper-capitalist new yaawkers like to show up to these concerts to be seen. appear “cultured” etc. b/c deep down, they know they’re empty.
    it’s a show, a show abt nothing. theatre for the usians.

    • Greg Hlatky says:

      At those ticket prices, elite, trust-fundie, hyper-capitalists are the only ones who can afford to go.

      Me? I don’t support people who make it clear they hate having me there. Not another ticket, not another dollar.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      I doubt you live in New York City, unless you also happen to be a self-mutilator. I suggest you stick to what you know.

  • Gary Sudder says:

    No one with a working brain stem, would consider that rag reputable and reliable. It is a well known propaganda “journal” for the establishment and the regime.

  • David Spence says:

    For the most part, I believe the Z Woolfe review, though I have not read much of it yet. I hope the Dude’s interpretation of Mahler 9 has grown a little since the Los Angeles PO recording, but contrary to what David Hurwitz says, may only be mildly less good than the well cultivated, but bland, lifeless interpretation by Simon Rattle on BR-Klassik from Munich. No doubt, Dudamel picked up a little mentoring from Rattle, along with from Barenboim and Abbado probably.

  • Piston1 says:

    I’m reading it now, in the old print edition, placed on the front-page of the so-called Arts section, beneath the fold — where it’s placed next to what I’m sure is a hard-hitting piece on nude stand-up in Brooklyn. Truly, he’s hardly put the knives back in the drawer for Jaap, and now, straight out of the gate, he’s dumping on Dudamel like a disgruntled lover, basically saying “it just wasn’t good enough”. Stay classy, NY Times. Another day and another dollar, in its daily war on classical music in New York.

  • Karden says:

    >>> Nick2, May 22, 2023: Re Mark’s comment, the thread is about Mahler 9 with the NYPO – not a recording with the LA Phil. How do you know it was exactly the same interpretation? <<<

    Beyond that, I notice the quality of a recording is very much affected by the room where an orchestra is playing and the capabilities of a recording's sound engineers. The acoustics of a Geffen, Musikverein, Disney, Philharmonie, Boston, etc, are often somewhat detectable.

  • Jasper says:

    Off topic. Have attendance numbers recovered in Geffen Hall post pandemic?

  • That one says:

    Don’t care for NYT. But Dudamel is bland indeed. (Just listen – don’t watch)

  • Daniel says:

    From I heard and admittedly with poor quality on social media the NY Philharmonic sounded banal at best. Third Tier.

    • Harpist says:

      The NYP are certainly not on par with the BPO, VPO, Concertegbouw or even Chicago, Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. But I liked this particular performance and often disagree with the NYT reviews.

  • Harpist says:

    It is interesting how differently the same performance can be perceived. My wife and I usually agree on most things music but I really liked it and was struck at the end – and she was not and thought it was meh… Of course she felt vindicated but the NY review (which I more often than not disagree with, they tear down performances I found spectacular and loved performances I hated).