Everyone in Los Angeles knows who Gustavo Dudamel is. He’s the charismatic and bold LA Philharmonic conductor who serves as the institutions mascot. He’s a local icon who is often seen with his curly hair all over the place and an intense–but happy–facial expression. He’s a modern classical music celebrity! A few weeks ago he made an appearance on NPR’s All Things Considered where he spoke with Robert Siegel about his roots, his practice, and a landmark performance of Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring). It’s a great listen.
The interview lets you inside the classical music world with a localized slant. As NPR and all public radio is excellent at doing, you feel like you’re an expert in the field and at ease with the subject…even though many of us have never visited a classical music show at the LA Philharmonic. Siegel speaks to how Dudamel has absolutely fresh eyes to music that is more than a century old and that we all have encountered our entire lives. “It’s the way that you offer the music to the people,” Dudamel says in relationship to making classical music shocking. “If you offer a routine–and I’m not [saying] that, you know, we have to jump or we have to scream or we have to change completely the score because we are playing exactly the same notes–but the only thing is that we have to avoid routine, and we have to play always 150 percent.” Dudamel also explains how he works with local LA children and how classical music, these complicated of-the-moment pieces, appeal to younger audiences. It’s fascinating. It’s funny too because his philosophy about the music is very much tied to the image we see of him around town. We’re lucky to have Dudamel!
The interview was held in correspondence to an early October conducting he did of The Rite of Spring which they broadcast live. Unfortunately, that recording is not available online though. (We looked for a few hours and found nothing, which is silly because it was already broadcast online.) Be that as it may, it’s great to be able to put a voice with this face we’re all familiar with. The interview definitely makes us want to check out the LA Philharmonic’s classical offerings as soon as we can. You can check out the LA Phil’s classical calendar here (Dudamel doesn’t have a show until February, sadly) and listen to the NPR interview here.