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"I think that the Rite is a symbol of the beginning of life," conductor Gustavo Dudamel told NPR in 2012, speaking about Igor Stravinsky's rambunctious Rite of Spring. "It's still so modern," he said. "For me, that's the secret of the piece."
Dudamel conducts the milestone composition with the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela to open Carnegie Hall's new season. They'll also perform Maurice Ravel's La Valse and a handful of dances from around the world.
Dudamel can trace his connections with Stravinsky's groundbreaking music back many years. He first heard the Rite in concert at age 8, when his father played in a symphony orchestra. It shocked him then, and he says the music still packs a big punch.
"Of course, you have these crazy moments of wild dynamics, but at the same time you feel that the rhythms and the melodies are so natural," he says. "You discover, 'Oh look, this is a very traditional harmony,' but then you see the details — and then every time it's different."
The rhythms in La Valse pay colorful homage to the genteel Viennese dance in three-quarter time. Yet viewed through Ravel's lens, and written in the wake of World War I, the music grows dark and bloated, staggering to keep upright, finally imploding. It's the kind of symphonic showpiece Dudamel relishes, no matter which orchestra he's leading.
As a teenager, Dudamel conducted the very orchestra he leads at this Carnegie Hall concert. He started as a violinist in the youth orchestra in his hometown of Barquisimento, Venezuela, and took up the baton one day when the conductor was sick. Little Gustavo was just 12. Today, he leads the world's most prestigious orchestras and starts his seventh season as the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, Gustavo Dudamel, cond.