Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Real Maestro Comes to Town


Today I'm deviating from talking tea to and returning to my first love and vocation—music. 

I had the opportunity last evening to experience one of the world's great orchestras directed by one of the most dynamic young conductors of our time as the Vienna Philharmonic rolled into town with Los Angeles Philharmonic's 29-year-old maestro Gustavo Dudamel. 

We live in the horse capital of the world and the World Equestrian Games opened this past weekend for a 15-day run in nearby Lexington. Nearly 1000 horses and riders from around the world are taking part in the Olympic style event.  

But this world class concert was staged ten minutes from our home in Danville's Norton Center for the Arts, an incredible venue that regularly hosts major musical guests including the New York Philharmonic, The Boston Pops, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, and Joshua Bell.  Tony Bennett will be there next week and The BBC Orchestra appears in November.   

Monday evening's concert opened with Dvorak's New World Symphony.  I learned to conduct this piece as a teenager by repeatedly playing the LP recording of the Philadelphia Orchestra with Eugene Ormandy.  I didn't have a real conductor's baton at the time but a Number 2 pencil was an adequate substitute.  Still today I could probably conduct the symphony without the need of a score.

I last heard this work performed with the Czechoslavakian Philharmonic on the same stage over a decade ago. That performance has long lasted in my memory as one of the highlights of my concert experiences. Maestro Dudamel (or the Dude as the college students sitting in at the rehearsal like to call him) made it a performance that Dvorak himself would have loved. 

I was close enough to see the conductor's feet leave the floor on more than one occasion as he and the players danced their way through this masterpiece. I watched the players smile as they obviously enjoyed the evening as much as the audience.  I grew up playing in bands and orchestras and I can tell in a musician's eyes if they believe in the director or not. 

Someone asked me at dinner what makes an outstanding conductor

For me, Maestro Dudamel exemplifies a joyous and energetic conductor players respect and look forward to working with. His confidence and knowledge of the music—he worked completely without score—allowed him to inspire musicians with his eyes and physical gestures.  He knew where he wanted to go, the orchestra believed in him, and they all enjoyed the adventure. We audience members were just fortunate to bask in the sparks that ensued.

If you happen to attend the World Equestrian Games on October 1, stop by a the Kentucky Proud Exhibition and from 3:30 to 6:30 and I'll share a cup of tea with you.