Sunday, September 5, 2010

Beethoven - Symphonies 5 and 7 - Dudamel, Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra



In 2006, the 25-year-old Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel's star on the international scene was rising fast, with prestigious conducting assignments and this CD of two of Beethoven's most-popular and often-recorded symphonies. It's a bold calling card for a label that has outstanding versions of these symphonies by the likes of von Karajan, Abbado, and Carlos Kleiber, among others. If Dudamel doesn't eclipse those or others atop the mountain of Beethoven symphony recordings, he gives fine performances brimming with vitality and excitement. His youth orchestra sounds as good as many better known ensembles, playing with spontaneity and technical expertise. Dudamel excels in painting vivid orchestral colors and lending rhythmic impetus to the fast movements of both symphonies, surely a prerequisite for conveying the power of the Fifth and the dancing rhythms of the Seventh. But he does tend to exaggerate dynamics, following powerful orchestral outbursts with barely audible solo or section passages. And his slow movements, while decently done, tend to lack flow and energy. Still, an impressive debut, heralding a welcome new face on the international conducting scene. --Dan Davis


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