With all the super duper hype and excitement surrounding the arrival of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's new Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, there have been both enthusiastic endorsements of his work and callous dismissals.
I thought it would be interesting to listen to a few snippets of the L.A. Phil's recent performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 1 under Dudamel, alongside matching clips from two other performances. But to really make it interesting, I've picked what are widely considered two of the finest performances of this piece available: a classic live recording of the Bavarian Radio Symphony led by Rafael Kubelik (1979), and a late recording from Leonard Bernstein, leading the Royal Concertgebouw (1987).
First, an excerpt from the first movement:
The most noticeable difference among all three is pacing, but one thing Dudamel does quite differently is a vivid management of texture, clearly adjusting balance so that, for instance, the winds are at the forefront when appropriate--he consistently pulls string sections back in a way I've not heard anyone else do, to great effect.
Now a bit from the second movement, a transition that provides opportunity for many different decisions on the part of the conductor (as you'll hear):
While all three are lovely, all three are quite different!Finally--after listening for subtleties--here's a clip from the middle of the last movement, the big climax before the big, big climax at the very end. This section is deceptively treacherous: while it's obviously exciting, it's also actually kind of thinly scored and so must be handled carefully with regard to pacing so that a proper impact is achieved. How does Gustavo compare?
Of course, to really get a sense of this tremendous piece and the very different ways conductors approach it, you should listen the complete performances--you can download the Dudamel/L.A. Phil performance here. You'll find the Kubelik here and the Bernstein here.