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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Which conductor, Alan Gilbert or Gustavo Dudamel?

October 24, 2009 at 12:05 AM

This fall marks the beginning of a new era for both the Los Angeles Philharmonic, with its new Music director, Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, 28, and the New York Philharmonic, with new Music Director Alan Gilbert, 42. When I think about both these new conductors, certainly I am thinking about change and new energy. But I'm not focused completely on youth, like, say, this Newsweek article, which proclaims "A Youthquake Hits Both Coasts" and talks about it as if both orchestras are undergoing "youth movements." BTW I love what Ian Salmon says in his Sound Post News about the Newsweek article, "Click to read the Newsweek article containing the words 'buttress' and 'contemporaneity.'"

Alan GilbertGustavo Dudamel
Gilbert, left, and Dudamel

Because I live in Los Angeles (and did attend Gustavo's big premiere), I know more about that scene than I do about the one in New York. Despite his "youth," I would dare call Dudamel a veteran conductor, having taken the baton at age 15 and being named the conductor of Venezuela's huge youth orchestra, Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, at age 17. I'm thinking he's put in his 10,000 hours. I can't even reconcile that kind of experience with the conducting students I remember from college, conducting to the far wall of the listening library as they listened to recordings on headphones and watched their scores. So scarce was their actual experience! Inexperience does not equate to exciting conducting.

Nor does newness and novelty. The fact of the matter is that the changes happening in the Los Angeles classical music scene did not spring fully formed from some"youthquake." The LA Phil's new home, the extremely popular and pleasant Disney Hall, was born only after a painful and attenuated 16-year labor, involving many cost overruns, acoustical overhauls, delays, etc. And you need only to read this article to understand that LA's search for a new conductor began from a years-long effort, started well before LA Phil conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen was to step down, to replace him. Leading the effort was Salonen himself, and Deborah Borda, president of the L.A. Philharmonic.

So far, tickets seem to be flying for LA Phil concerts. Would you like to see Gil Shaham, playing the Berg concerto, with Dudamel conducting? Good luck! And yes, that would be the Violin Concerto by Alban Berg, not exactly a pander-to-the-masses piece.

As for Gilbert, here is an article about his premiere, and I do invite our New Yorkers to go into more detail. But here is some information: you could say that Gilbert is a kind of product of the orchestra, the son of two New York Philharmonic musicians, violinist Yoko Takebe, and retired violinist Michael Gilbert. He is the first Asian American to lead the New York Philharmonic and he studied at both Curtis and Harvard. He is an American, and he is a New Yorker; he will likely spend his time in the city. From what I have read (I have not seen him conduct) he is known to speak from the podium, to embrace new music and to have a quiet, easy-to-follow elegance to his conducting.

In both cases, the change is bringing attention to the orchestras, and one can only hope that the excitement will translate to larger audience and the potential to build loyalty.

Please vote and share your thoughts!

From Michael Divino
Posted on October 24, 2009 at 2:49 AM

So I'm definitely going to punk out and take the middle road by saying that each will develop his orchestra in new and exciting ways, and I think both the NY and LA Phil will only go up from here.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on October 24, 2009 at 11:59 AM

 I like that a 42-year-old is considered part of a "youthquake".

From Royce Faina
Posted on October 24, 2009 at 3:23 PM

Both are note watching!  I cannot wait for the youtubes of their new endvors and the bloggs that follow! 

From Elinor Estepa
Posted on October 24, 2009 at 4:51 PM

I've watched Mr. Gilbert conduct the NY Phil last Sept on tv, and he sure was good, the musicians are more relaxed so to speak, (except his mother?) , oh, well, she mighty proud of him!

Both conductors, are sure will give fresh and youthfull outlooks for this sohpisticated group of musicians, and more music from a contemporary composers which, they truly deserve to be played and heard.

Best of luck to both of them!

From Laurie Niles
Posted on October 24, 2009 at 11:18 PM

Do you guys like the way Robert made juxtaposed the pictures, so they look like good friends?

Well, it is fine if you can't decide. But I'd be curious about people's impressions, from those who have seen either or both of these gentlemen conduct, or better yet, played under either baton.

BTW, I also like the idea of a 42-year-old being part of a "youthquake," being a youthful 41-year-old myself!

From Alise Svoboda
Posted on October 25, 2009 at 4:46 AM

Well... to be honest.  I saw Dudamel conduct Mahler with the CSO... it was AMAZING!! He conducted from memory.  That alone puts him a step ahead of the competition...

From Larry Deming
Posted on October 26, 2009 at 12:13 AM

I heard the NY Phil at Caramoor, under a tent with distant jets overhead and early leavers disrupting the last movement, but even so, I sensed a revitalization in the musicians.  It was evident that all the performers were on the same page as the conductor.  Alan Gilbert had a great rapport with the orchestra and seemed very easy to follow.  He conducted from memory as well.

From Peter Kent
Posted on October 26, 2009 at 2:09 AM

Nuthin' wrong with Dudamel that couldn't be remedied with a baldy or even a brush-cut....haven't seen Gilbert yet......but talk about over-conducting.....As far as inspiring professional musicians, remember, they aren't athletes.....they should be doing what the score says and embellished by the conductor.....there is always an element of pride in the big name orchestras...and it's tough to really hear a marked difference from the predecessor.....perhaps after a season of varied stylistic works an opinion could be formed......but as a player, Dudes is sort of distracting...good cues.....I'd have to hear what he says in rehearsal...the LA Phil players are top notch and it's difficult to imagine them playing poorly due to neglect or disdain, ala Seattle, where the jury is still forming on their maestro.

But then, the element of audience appeal and subsequent philanthropy/attendance is significant, and if he can pack the seats and is perceived to produce superior music than his predecessor, I guess he da man.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on October 26, 2009 at 2:27 AM

I think this idea of making the musicians sit up and play is significant. Sure, these are both top-notch orchestras, but it still makes a difference in a performance, if the musicians can consistently  trust the baton. It also makes a difference if the conductor can communicate his or her ideas effectively enough -- through rehearsal technique and/or gesture during the concert -- for the musicians to take those ideas to heart.

From Eric Salazar
Posted on October 29, 2009 at 10:36 AM

I really like Dudamel. He is very musical and conducts with a passion. Gilbert is good tooo but always somehow a bit more reserved that Dudamel.

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