Dudamel Conducts Brahms Ending in a Birthday Bash

By Truman C. Wang

L.A. Phil’s wunderkind Music Director Gustavo Dudamel turned 37 today. 

To celebrate, there were fireworks (by Stravinsky) and lots of exciting noises (by L.A. Phil’s own Principal Timpani Joseph Pereira, in his new work).

Pereira’s new work, Threshold for Solo Timpani, Two Percussion and Orchestra, is destined not to be heard again for a very long time, given its outlandish assortment of exotic and downright bizarre percussion instruments or objects (such as temple bowl, almglocken, ceramic tiles, octobons, Korean gong, spring coils, spiral cymbals, the list goes on.)  As if these weren’t enough, they were augmented by the Maraca2 percussion duo from the UK, who performed virtuoso stunts on their drum sets and ceramic tiles worthy of Cirque du Soleil.  The sounds thusly produced can only be described as phantasmagoric and out of this world, mostly in a good way.  There is not a shred of melody or lyricism in this work.  One needs only to feel the visceral sensation of various percussive forces at play.  It’s a sensory experience not unlike that of last week’s Zimmermann Cello Concerto-Ballet piece, minus the light show and the dancing.

After all the hubbub had died down, we heard a stirring Brahms Symphony No. 1 in a grandly Romantic reading by the older and (hopefully) wiser maestro Dudamel.  For years, readers of Classical Voice have been hearing my lament of Gustavo mucking up the classic repertoire with his youthful bombast.  No longer, I am happy to report.  In fact, the maturing had taken place during the Mahler Cycle a few seasons back.  I would also be remiss not to mention concertmaster Martin Chalifour’s heavenly violin solo at the end of the Andante.   

A fitting finale to the concert was a sing-along ‘Happy Birthday’ in tutti for our beloved maestro.

Truman C. Wang is Editor-in-Chief of Classical Voice, whose articles have appeared in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the Pasadena Star-News, other Southern California publications, as well as the Hawaiian Chinese Daily.