Dudamel Conducts Mahler

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2013/14

Friday 15th November

Symphony Hall

Philharmonia Orchestra

Gustavo Dudamel conductor

Mahler Symphony No 7 77’

This concert has a running time of c 1 hour 20 minutes with no interval.

Lively, charismatic and driven by a burning urge to communicate, Gustavo Dudamel is quickly becoming one of the artists who define classical music in our time. On only his third visit to Symphony Hall, he conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra in the symphony Gustav Mahler called his ‘song of the night’: music of horn-calls and twilit processions, set in a world of dreams, nightmares, and roof-raising joy.

Classic FM’s John Suchet says:

A mighty Mahler symphony conducted by a mighty maestro, this is one concert not to be missed. Described as the hottest conductor on the planet, young Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel has engulfed the musical world with his boyish charm and precocious talent. Hear him tonight take on Mahler’s tantalizing Seventh Symphony.




Review by Peter Marks, BachTrack:

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…     “The orchestra tore into the rambunctious opening of the finale. Again, Dudamel didn’t interfere with the flow of this triumphant passage and he had the very end of the movement in sight, holding the unexpected chord that foils the first fanfare passage long enough so that we knew what was coming at the coda. Coherence was the name of the game, once again, with each bombastic episode seeming to join with the last rather than seeming repetitive and disjointed as is sometimes the case. At one point the timpanist couldn’t suppress giggles at this almost absurdly hyperactive music. Perhaps this music is absurd – but then, as Alfred Brendel recently pointed out on Desert Island Discs, the world is absurd. Mahler’s well-known wish was certainly to capture the world in each of his symphonies.

The return of the first movement’s main theme was preceded by crackling electricity in the playing of the orchestra, and as the coda approached there were smiles all around from the players as they realised what a special performance they had executed. The chord of harmonic oblivion that Dudamel had signposted at the beginning of the movement hung in the air once more, like the absurd world suspended in a bubble, which he obligingly popped with Mahler’s triumphant final note.”



Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb

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…     “The central scherzo carries the marking Schattenhaft, which I believe can be translated as ‘shadowy’. I think that perhaps it’s only when you see a live performance that you fully realised just how difficult this music is to play. The scoring is full of weird shrieks and broken rhythms; fragments of music are hurled around the orchestra. The music is full of all sorts of nocturnal goings-on. Dudamel was the master of the score here, controlling everything very tightly and positively, ensuring that all the elements of Mahler’s piquant orchestration were realised. The Philharmonia backed him to the hilt with some marvellously precise playing

The second Nachtmusik could not be more different in character to the second movement. Marked Andante amoroso it’s a piece that finds Mahler in nostalgic and sentimental mood. The movement was distinguished by much excellent solo playing from the orchestra’s leader, Zsolt-Tihamér Visontay. Here, textures were admirably clear – the mandolin and guitar parts registered nicely. Dudamel’s reading was clear-eyed and once again he brought out, without any artificial spot-lighting, a lot of detail, such as the long, low clarinet trill near the end. However, I didn’t feel there was a great deal of warmth or affection in the reading; it seemed to me to be rather objective.

With scarcely a pause for breath Dudamel launched into the finale, the orchestra’s timpanist, Andrew Smith, making his presence felt – as he should in this movement.”     …



Review by Norman Stinchcombe, Birmingham Post:

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     “Who but Mahler would have thought of opening with a horn call but transforming a romantic cliché into something fresh and disturbing by assigning it to a rasping tenor horn?

He wanted it to sound like “nature roaring” and the Philharmonia’s player gave us just that, using the “big tone” Mahler demanded. The romantic trumpet calls and wind trills sounded magically distanced; the second night-music movement’s violin and mandolin solos were sweet but never sickly.

At the introduction of the beautiful second theme of the first movement Dudamel couldn’t resist slowing down despite Mahler’s insistence on maintaining tempo but this was a minor indulgence. He launched into the last movement without a pause but the sudden timpani assault was the sort of theatrical gesture Mahler might have relished.”


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