January 23, 2009 / 1:45 AM / 11 years ago

Dudamel brings fresh approach to L.A. Philharmonic

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Days before his 28th birthday, Venezuelan conductor and new music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Gustavo Dudamel unveiled his musical program on Thursday, determined to bring a new audience into the rarefied world of classical music.

Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Designate Gustavo Dudamel is interviewed at a news conference to announce programming for the 2009/10 season in Los Angeles January 22, 2009. REUTERS/Phil McCarten

The most famous product of Venezuela’s much-lauded network of music schools, El Sistema, Dudamel will open the orchestra’s 2009-2010 season in October with a free concert for 18,000 people at the Hollywood Bowl, playing a familiar and accessible piece — Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

“Access to classical music, until now in the 21st century, is so limited,” Dudamel said. “For us, it is very important to have a new audience coming together with our regular audience and to have young kids.”

The charismatic Dudamel has taken the classical music world by storm, drawing comparisons to legendary conductors like Leonard Bernstein. Spanish newspaper El Pais said “the young Venezuelan conductor represents like no one else the future of (classical) music.”

Despite his youth, Dudamel will wield enormous influence over his orchestra, the eighth-best in the world according to a recent ranking by the prestigious music magazine Gramophone.

The L.A. Philharmonic set up an orchestra program for the city’s disadvantaged youth, along the lines of El Sistema, which provides free instruments and lessons to students.

Dudamel also will bring a Latin touch to the orchestra of a city where about half of the population is Hispanic. He will direct the “Americas and Americans” festival to celebrate musical traditions of the Western Hemisphere and play several Latin American compositions with the L.A. Philharmonic.

Under his direction, the orchestra will perform new compositions by lesser-known artists. At his inaugural gala at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in October, Dudamel plans to lead the L.A. Philharmonic in the world premiere of “City Noir,” a piece composed by John Adams and inspired by the mood of Los Angeles “noir” films.

“L.A. has a tradition of doing new things,” Dudamel said, highlighting the legacy of his predecessor, Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, who took over the philharmonic at the age of 34 and was known for taking risks with avant-garde pieces.

Opening night, which also includes one of Dudamel’s favorites, Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, will be broadcast in Europe, South America, Asia and the United States.

Philharmonic President Deborah Borda said the ensemble will tour exclusively in the United States in Dudamel’s first year, visiting eight cities.

“We decided that the best thing would be to show our great orchestra and our great Gustavo here at home in the United States,” Borda said.

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