May 20, 2009

Gustavo Dudamel at the Concertgebouw

I am sitting in the sun ouside the Concertgebouw, typing in exhilaratedly after listening to an amazing performance of Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor by the Koninklijk (Royal) Concertgebouw Orchestra. The conductor was Gustavo Dudamel, of Venezuela, and this was my first exposure to this well-known piece in concert.

Every wednesday at 12:30 (noon) there is a short, free concert at the Concertgebouw, but performances of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra are not very frequent. The leading classical music magazine Gramophone had recently ranked the Koninklijk Concertgebouw orchestra finest in the world (Berlin, Vienna, and London coming in at no. 2,3 and 4). Naturally, when I showed up around 12:15, the queues were going quite across the block. I managed to spot a second door, the "artist's entrance" - through which you can get into the seats behind the performers...

The Concertgebouw (literally, "Concert building") is reputed to have the finest acoustics among major concert venues, which maybe one of the reasons for the orchestra being so good. Most of the audience is in front or on the balconies, but you can also sit behind the players.

The musicians in the first violin section. At left (leading first violin) is the Bulgarian born Vesko Eschkenazy.

I was sitting behind the players, when a dignified elderly man and a young rowdy walked down the aisle by me. From the applause, I gathered the elderly man must be the conductor - but why was the whippersnapper in dirty jeans and red t-shirt with him?

But then it turned out that it was the young man who started waving the baton! I had read that Dudamel was young - but this was profane! No wonder this young Venezuelan maestro, who will become the principal conductor of the Los Angeles philharmonic later this year, has been making big waves in the world of classical music (see him on 60 minutes: The great Gustavo). The white-haired man in the jacket was the solo pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and he brought out the emotions in the piece very effectively...

Video: The dying moments of Grieg concerto,
with Dudamel conducting energetically, and
then the audience applause.

Grieg's piano concerto in A minor, Op. 16: the first movement was light and uplifting, and you could hear every note clearly in the "grote hall" whose somber ambience also made for the right mood. The second piece, by Prokofiev, also went very well. I am not at all knowledgeable in western classical music and can't judge whether the orchestra has an "individual" sound or not, but even I could feel the emotions, especially in Grieg.

Well, now it's time for me to leave this sunlit grassy arena, built on an artificial sloping deck... I unlock my bicycle and go off for my meeting with some project students...

LINK: A CD has been released from this Dudamel/Thibaudet performance. You can listen to some of it here.

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