Review: Gustavo Dudamel directs the “Rite of Spring” with aplomb


One of the most important dates in classical music is the premiere, April 2, 1913, of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” but not the famous riot that disrupted the ballet at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. Thanks to “The Rite”, rhythm and time took on a new importance in European music which revolutionized music of all kinds everywhere, including in Latin America.

This is the aim of Gustavo Dudamel’s two-week Stravinsky ballet cycle, in which he combines the great scores of the composer’s Ballets Russes – “Firebird” and “Petrushka” as well as “The Rite” – with classical Latin ballet. American or film music. The cycle also includes new pieces by Latin American composers written for the occasion.

“The Rite” – and it was a “Rite” that will be remembered on Thursday night – came first. This is always the case with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. LA may have been a little slow in embracing the “Rite,” but in the nine decades since LA Phil’s 1928 West Coast premiere at the Hollywood Bowl, the “Rite” reigned supreme. in this city, where Stravinsky spent most of his time. the second half of his life.

Our list of “rites” is long, so let’s stick to a few highlights. Stravinsky often took her here. Disney’s “Fantasia” wouldn’t have been the same without “The Rite,” and the animation wouldn’t have been the same without “Fantasia.” Local composers and musicians of all persuasions, in Hollywood and beyond, were in Stravinsky’s thrall.

The LA Phil, meanwhile, became “Rite” Central. Zubin Mehta performed it during the opening week of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion concerts in 1964. Esa-Pekka Salonen opened Disney in 2003 with him and made it something of a hallmark song for the venue.

For his part, Dudamel didn’t need any encouragement to take up the mantle of LA “Rite.” As a young child, he pretended to lead toy soldiers on a recording of Salonen’s “Rite”. In 2010, a year after becoming musical director of the LA Phil and a few days after turning 29, Dudamel made a live recording “Rite” so excited with his enormous youth Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela that it could serve as a supplement of sound adrenaline. .

Yet for all his youthful exuberance, Dudamel had a lot to do. His first LA Phil “Rite” of passage, two years later, offered an excess of youthful liveliness, speed and hyper expressiveness. Stravinsky, who disliked exaggeration, thought his music should speak for itself. Dudamel seemed to want her to speak for everyone. Too much adrenaline, however, clouds the senses.

After another decade, Dudamel’s “Rite” has become less conspicuous. The thrills are now new and more durable. Awesome power and authority don’t have to be awesome anymore. Best to keep them. It is a capital affair.

The weight of the “Rite” of Dudamel is what attracts you first. From the start, Whitney Crockett’s opening bassoon solo had an emotional presence that sounded fuller and richer than any voice. Rather, it was part of something bigger, an expression of significant occasion.

Although never less than the life force it must be in “The Rite”, the rhythm is less noticeable, acting more like a heartbeat. Rather, the focus is on mood, atmosphere and, above all, motivation. The rituals that motivate this pagan sacrifice – the abduction of a young victim, the fearsome sages, the wild, suffocating ecstasy of the final “sacrificial dance” – becomes irresistible.

This “Rite” is no longer a fun ride but rather a warning. Dudamel graphically unleashes uncontrollable disastrous forces within us and then demonstrates the musical mastery necessary to control these superhuman and dehumanizing forces. We can discuss the so-called iconic Los Angeles experiences. But let there be no doubt that a great “Rite” played by the LA Phil at Disney matters.

Dudamel also recorded Alberto Ginastera’s four-dance suite from his 1941 ballet, “Estancia,” with his Bolívars in 2007. The exuberant rhythms of “Rite” are unmissable, which the Argentine composer transposed to those of his dance native Argentina. On Thursday, Dudamel presented the full score of the ballet which follows the day in the life of a gaucho who wants to prove himself and win his love.

The young Ginastera (who was 26 when he wrote the ballet) can offer little in the much longer full score (which is 33 minutes long, like “The Rite”) of excitement in the dances of the suite. But it puts them in a rich context and gives substance to the final ‘Malambo’, which has become a spirited reminder for the Bolívars.

As in his Stravinsky, Dudamel found a breadth that went beyond the dance beats, no matter how exciting, and proved particularly effective in the moonlit night parts not in the suite. Baritone Gustavo Castillo (from Dudamel’s hometown of Barquisimeto, and a member of La Scala in Milan) brought dignified passion to his reading of parts of José Hernández’s poem “Martín Fierro”, which inspired “Estancia”, and her singing of her short vocal solos.

The new piece, “El Río de Luz” (The River of Light) by Alex Nante, which opened the program, is a modest six-minute sweep of cloudy orchestral color that ends with a rapid bang. Rhythm and meter because this young Argentinian composer can, with pleasure, wait.

“The Rite of Spring”

What: Gustavo Dudamel conducts “The Rite of Spring”

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $71-$276

Information: (323) 850-2000,


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