The world of classical music isn’t known for producing showmen. Artists are generally encouraged to ‘let the music speak for itself’ and blend into the background by adhering to a strict, classic dress code.
Enter Gustavo Dudamel. Ever since the young conductor burst onto to the international scene a few years ago, he has changed the face of his profession. Seeing the baton-wielding Venezuelan in action, full of youthful energy with his trademark curly hair waving wildly, is a refreshing and exhilarating experience.
And now he’s bringing his creative genius and infectious enthusiasm to London, for a residency at the Barbican.
‘The Dude’, as Dudamel is colloquially known, is a product of El Sistema, the ground-breaking Venezuelan social programme which provides underprivileged children with instruments and high quality musical education. At the age of 18, he became the musical director of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, with which he toured the world, showcasing a series of electrifying performances – including an unforgettable evening at the BBC Proms.
Becoming musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2009 turned Dudamel into an international celebrity. But instead of letting this monumental position change him, the Dude set about changing the orchestra, often leading them into unchartered territory – the LA Phil will perform three European premières at the Barbican.
True to Dudamel’s philanthropic vision, the residency has a strong educational focus. ‘Discover Dudamel’, an open rehearsal in the Barbican Theatre, will see the conductor rehearsing Tchaikovsky’s fantasy overture Romeo and Juliet with a mixed-ability orchestra of 100 young people. The instrumentalists come from the LA Phil’s Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA), which provides free instruments and tuition to over 550 students who would not otherwise have access to a musical education. They will be joined by members of the Barbican Young Orchestra from Tower Hamlets, Barking & Dagenham and Hackney and from the Centre for Young Musicians.
There will also be a chance for all us amateur musicians to learn from the best in the business. Between the concerts, members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic will give masterclasses at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. The sessions, on March 15th, are free (ticketed) and open to the public and include classes on trombone, harp, French horn and cello.
Another highlight of the residency is a screening of Dudamel Live from Caracas at the Barbican Cinema on the March 17. One of the most ambitious live recordings ever made, it features a breathtaking 1,400 performers playing Mahler’s expansive eighth symphony. And no one does Mahler quite like the Dude.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel International Associate Residency at the Barbican runs from 13-17 March.
Barbican Box Office: 0845 120 7550
/ 10 March, 2013