On the evening of Friday, April 7 at Heinz Hall, Gustavo Dudamel, perhaps the most recognizable conductor in the world, made his debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in lieu of Christoph von Dohnanyi, who canceled his scheduled appearance after suffering an injury.
I think it is safe to say that there was the start of a new romance with Gustavo Dudamel and not just the Pittsburgh Symphony, but the Pittsburgh audience as a whole. Any conductor debuting with an orchestra, even a prominent conductor like Dudamel, must earn the respect of the orchestra. This weekend, the connection was definitely there, and the smiles from the orchestra during rehearsal and the performance were endless. The audience could feel the magic. Was it Don Juan and Beethoven’s epic Fifth? Was it the presence of Maestro Dudamel? Or was it a culmination of both that made the experience simply magical?
Dudamel was incredibly poetic, and not ostentatious to watch live. Videos cannot express fully the energy and authentic joy he exudes. It is an experience that must be live to truly understand.
There was a good amount of give and take between Dudamel and the orchestra, and there were moments where Dudamel let the orchestra take the lead, such as the opening of Don Juan. (Of course, the entire violin section could play Don Juan from memory as the first page is a requirement on any major orchestra audition, due to all the technical skill it requires of the player.)
Soovin Kim, was guest concertmaster. Kim served as guest concertmaster with the PSO last season. He led the orchestra well with clear cues and attentiveness to Dudamel’s interpretation.