Saturday, March 1, 2008

Classically Crazy

Believe it or not, but this man did not escape a mental institution.

In fact, the only thing this man is crazy about is....

classical music?

At 26 years old, Venezuelan native Gustavo Dudamel is the reigning king of classical. There is no doubt that he is an unlikely contender, as it seems that he has barely given up bottle-feeding, however his impressive skill and natural ability put any speculation to rest.

Born in Barquisimeto in the state of Lara in January of 1981 Dudamel began to study music at an early age and enrolled in El Sistema, the famous Venezuelan musical education program. Upon taking up the violin at age ten, Dudamel began to study composition and subsequently attended the Jacinto Lara Conservatory before going on to study and work at the Latin-American Violin Academy. In 1995, Dudamel began studying conducting with Rodolfo Saglimbeni, and later José Antonio Abreu. Just four years later, he was appointed as the music director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar, the national youth orchestra of Venezuela.

Dudamel's big break came in 2004 when he was declared the winner of a major conducting competition. A mere two years later in 2006, at 25 years old, he was offered Sweden's Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Dudamel's work impressed the Los Angeles Philharmonic so much that in April of 2007, having only made two guest appearances, it was announced that the Dudamel would succeed Esa-Pekka Salonen as its music director in 2009.

Now, I don't know much about classical music, let alone conducting, but as Eden Harrell asked in Time magazine: What makes Dudamel so special?

His mop of wild curls?
His rock star looks?
His relatively young age?

According to Ed Smith, the managing director of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, what makes Dudamel so unique is his ability to conduct in two directions by communicating with musicians and the audience at once. One of Dudamel's mentors, Simon Rattle, also acknowledged Dudamel’s extraordinary ability, calling him "the most astonishingly gifted conductor I have ever come across." Daniel Barenboim and Claudio Abbado, two other giants of European conducting, showered similar praises on Dudamel, further evidencing that the hype surrounding this young prodigy is not based on fiction, but fact.

Now call me crazy, but after taking a listen to a few pieces, I too, have found myself a bit smitten.

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