By Robert D. Thomas
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
Dudamel/Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Sibelius: Symphony No. 2
Nielsen: Symphonies No. 4 (The Inextinguishable) and 5
Bruckner: Symphony No. 9
3 CD Boxed Set 0289 477 9449 3
Walt Disney Concert Hall price: $42.98;
Amazon.com price: $25.95
As Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic prepare
to open their 2011-2012 Walt Disney Concert Hall season next week (LINK), Deutsche
Grammophon (DGG) has released a fascinating new three-CD box set of Dudamel
conducting one of his other ensembles, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra of
Sweden. The symphonies were recorded live in the GSO’s home, the Konserthuset
in Gothenburg (Sweden’s second-largest city), in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
There are several ironies in the fire with this new
recording. For one thing, Dudamel has not yet conducted any of these pieces with
the L.A. Phil although one can only presume they’ll show up in future seasons.
As such, this recording acts as a fascinating preview of things to come.
Another irony has Dudamel leading works that one might have associated more
with his L.A. predecessor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, although the latter had to work
hard to overcome a youth resistance to the music of Sibelius.
Then, of course, there’s the notion that Dudamel, a
Venezuelan, is conducting Nordic symphonies, which is sort of the Swedish
version of carrying coals to Newcastle. The Gothenburg Symphony, which was
founded in 1905, has a lengthy history with the music of Jean Sibelius and Carl
Nielsen, some of which is outlined in an essay included with the box set. The
GSO first played Sibelius’ second symphony in 1907, just a few years after the
symphony’s first performances. The composer eventually conducted the piece
three times with the ensemble. Nielsen conducted the first GSO performances of
his Symphony No. 4 in 1918, two years after its premiere. He conducted his
fifth symphony with the orchestra four years later.
For those who have watched and heard Dudamel in action, it’s
easy to close your eyes and picture all of the familiar musical gestures that
he brings to a concert performance, e.g., the way he shapes the ends of
phrases, the lilting dances and the manner in which he builds long crescendos
of sound (this shows up particularly in the ends of both Nielsen symphonies and
the Adagio in Bruckner’s 9th), the
way the GSO strings dig into certain phrases.
There’s much to recommend in these recordings, particularly
if you don’t have them in your current collection. The GSO may not quite match
up in all respects to the world’s greatest orchestras but it’s a formidable
ensemble that has developed a rich relationship with Dudamel, who in turn has
discovered a real affinity for the music of three composers. Moreover, during
the next decades Dudamel’s take on these compositions is sure to mature with more
study and performances. Thus, this is a recording worth having if for no other
reason than as a historical record that will allow listeners to compare
Dudamel’s artistic growth over the years.
(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.