Gustavo Dudamel greets SARAH YENESEL (EFE) at the start of this Monday’s press conference at the New York Philharmonic headquarters
Gustavo Dudamel was the embodiment of a dream this Monday on the stage of the New York Philharmonic, the boy from Barquisimeto (Venezuela) who was eight or nine years old conducting at home, “for my family”, which he wanted to play in a salsa Orchestra like his father, a trombonist, and who today at 42 takes over the musical and artistic direction of the oldest group in the USA, a position that has involved Gustav Mahler, Arturo Toscanini, Leonard Bernstein, Lorin Maazel and other greats in music history .
“It’s a dream to be in such an iconic place, impressed by its past, but I also see all the possibilities that the future offers, not just as an institution, as an orchestra, but as an identity factor for a community and a tool for it social transformation,” said the director this Monday, whose pedagogical work, as promoter of El Sistema de Abreu or creator of YOLA, the Los Angeles youth orchestra that copies the Venezuelan model, has always been parallel to the interpretive work. After a successful stint at the helm of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, which he joined in 2009, Dudamel will join the New York formation as music director-designate for the 2025-26 season and serve as their 27th manager for five years beginning the following season. He will succeed Jaap van 0zweden.
“When I came to the Philharmonie in 2007, I was black-haired and 25 or 26 years old,” he jokes about his first concert in New York, “Lorin Maazel was the artistic director and it was very special that he welcomed me. I immediately felt a connection to the orchestra, it was a turning point in my career.” Since then he has conducted 26 repertory concerts, but a conductor, he emphasizes, “is nothing without an orchestra, he is not the center of the universe, and when you When you have an incredible group of musicians like this, it’s not hard to make amazing music.”
Dudamel was a good baseball player as a kid who “played everything, in all positions” (laughs) and had to choose between the two big teams of his homeland from 2025 – one of the questions asked in the presentation “… choose the Cardenales de Barquisimeto … and also the Dogers [de Los Ángeles], and well, okay, the Yankees a little” (more laughter). Smiling, close, charismatic, he pockets those in attendance at his formal premiere as Musical Director of the Philharmonic – a good chunk of the Board of Trustees, some musicians and a cloud of cameras – seated in a semicircle on the stage of the Philharmonic’s renovated Hall of the Orchestra, the David Geffen Hall, with its new and improved acoustics, “the new age of the orchestra”.
“Life has been very generous to me,” the musician said, speaking to Deborah Borda, the group’s outgoing executive director, and his enthusiastic mentor. “To be the first Latino, the first Hispanic [al frente de la Filarmónica] That makes me proud, but it’s not an individual achievement, but the reflection of the work and effort of many children and young people who make their way through life with music. This boy from Barquisimeto is coming to New York and that makes me happy because it means that dreams can be realized with discipline and work”, pointed out the musician, who nonetheless emphasized that his development is a natural process, not at all a forced result of the “Making music with others who end up being friends, family”. Like director Claudio Abbado’s, Daniel Barenboim’s and many others whom he admires.
Homage to Abreu
Dudamel has also remembered his teacher José Antonio Abreu, with whom he started at the age of nine. “He was a father to me. I remember their conversations, not only about music, but also about philosophy or poetry. It’s the foundation of my career.” So he not only doesn’t deny his Venezuelan formative years, he justifies them, just like Abreu, El Sistema (“it’s in my DNA”) and the Simón Bolívar Orchestra, of which he has been musical director since 1999 .” Although I have not traveled regularly to my country since 2017, I am in constant contact. The Simón Bolívar Orchestra is in good shape and some of its musicians have participated in the Encuentros program [Los Ángeles] my foundation and that of my wife”. Quoting Miguel de Unamuno in Spanish, Dudamel recalled, “Freedom is in culture.”
The musician, who reiterates that while he’s still young, he’s no longer young promise, assures that he’s been taking risks since the beginning of his career. “Every step we take is a risk, but yes, I like to take risks. At 22 or 23 I was a wild animal [risas]not only because of my wild hair [más risas]. At that age it was time to exaggerate, and I exaggerated, that’s how you learn. Now I’m no longer a young promise, you change with experience,” she says of her dealings with the Philharmonie and the rest of her work in general, which she accepts without prejudice. “It’s difficult to come to a point and say, ‘I’m going to do this and that,’ things don’t work that way, you have to learn that first.”
As the head of the Philharmonic selection committee recalled in the presentation, “In a large orchestra there is nothing more difficult than unanimity. But Gustavo was the exception: he was the only candidate, and unanimity [de los músicos] about his person was total”. New York surrenders at Dudamel’s feet and counts the days to have it exclusively in a city without sharing it with Los Angeles or Paris, the musician recalls, with so many Latino immigrants and “with a very special vibe , all its energy and the culture it encompasses. I look forward to being here.”
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