Gustavo Dudamel, Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Steve Holtje

By Steve Holtje

on 02.19.13 in Reviews

Mahler 9

Los Angeles Philharmonic
So compelling that it’s easy to hear why Dudamel is the newest superstar conductor

Been wondering whether the hotshot young Venezuelan conductor lives up to the hype? Wonder no more, for to be this distinctive in warhorse repertoire, mostly without resorting to willful exaggerations, is impressive. There’s a languorous fervor in this caught-in-concert reading that recalls Bernstein. Clocking in at two seconds over 86 minutes, it’s generally on the slow side, but there have been slower renditions (Horenstein and Bernstein topped 89 minutes, Giulini 88, Zander 87), and the close of the third movement is extremely sprightly. The L.A. Phil, if not as tonally distinctive as the Vienna Phil, plays with enough richness and precision to more than withstand the scrutiny Dudamel’s attention to detail brings. His only misstep comes near the end of the finale; starting around 21 minutes in, it becomes so slow that the flow is interrupted, making his italicizing emphases seem self-conscious. Also, the ending is so quiet that it’s almost not there, though that was probably less of a problem in the concert hall. Otherwise, this reading is so compelling that it’s easy to hear why the 32-year-old is the newest superstar conductor.