By now the Gustavo-Dudamel-as-wunderkind story is old news. Fans know he started playing violin at age 10, conducting at 12 and became music director of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra when he was just 18.
Yet Dudamel's stats can still be staggering. He told me recently he was 11 when he played his first Mahler symphony and 16 when he took the podium to conduct Mahler.
"My first big piece was Mahler's Symphony No. 1," he said.
Fast-forward 17 years and Dudamel, now 33, is one of the most recognizable conductors in the world. He's set to kick off his sixth season as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the way he inaugurated his tenure in 2009: with a Mahler symphony and some new music.
Dudamel says it's the unique combination of tradition and innovation that draws him to Mahler.
"He was really looking for something, but he was at the same time open to change," Dudamel says. "I think that is the beautiful thing about Mahler. He was trying to show his soul. His vision of the world."
But it wouldn't be an LA Phil concert without some new music as well. To begin the program, Dudamel will conduct the U.S. premiere of a percussion concerto by Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer David Lang.
The work is called man made and features snapping twigs, clanking wine bottles and clattering trash cans among the many instruments employed by the adventurous young ensemble Sō Percussion.
Lang has worked with Sō Percussion often and created a piece specifically for the group, which builds instruments out of found objects. The only problem, Lang says, is "How could an orchestra of 'normal' instruments doing mostly 'normal' things find common ground with them?" His solution: "to set up a kind of ecology between the soloists and the orchestra, using the orchestral percussionists as 'translators.'"
New music for percussion and orchestra, Dudamel doing what he's been doing since he was a teenager — and we've got your front row seat as KUSC Classical and NPR Music broadcast the concert live Oct. 2 at 8 p.m. PT, 11 p.m. ET.
- Lang: man made
- Mahler: Symphony No. 5
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Gustavo Dudamel, conductor