Late last month, the IPO presented a thrilling concert led by conducting sensation Gustavo Dudamel.
Serious musical aficionados were eager to see and hear the Philadelphia debut of Maestro Dudamel, and he certainly delivered all that was promised -- and then some.
Born in Venezuela 27 years ago, Dudamel is now in his 10th season as music director of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. He has been appointed music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, beginning with the 2009 season, and conducted the IPO for the first time in 2005.
Dudamel and the IPO presented a program that appealed to the intellect and the heart.
The first half of the program consisted of two works by Leonard Bernstein, in celebration both of the 90th anniversary of his birth and his long relationship with the Israeli orchestra.
"Halil" was written in 1981, in memory of Yadin Tanenbaum, a 19-year-old Israeli flutist killed in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The solo line, played hauntingly by Eyal Ein-Habar, principal flutist for the IPO, was written based on an atonal, 12-tone row.
After the opening free-form solo, the orchestra entered in a highly angular and joyous fashion, accompanied in a typical Bernstein motif, marked by lots of percussion.
The audience was captivated by this performance, and Ein-Habar followed with a short encore presentation of the Israeli tune "El Artzi/To My Land."
Playing Bernstein 'Games'
About 35 additional musicians mounted the stage to bring the IPO to its full complement for the second Bernstein composition, "Concerto for Orchestra, 'Jubilee Games.' "
This highly unusual work was lovingly introduced by Peter Marck, a member of the double bass section. A veteran of many Bernstein performances with the IPO, Marck gave a precise and yet highly emotional description of this work.
"Jubilee Games" was originally composed in only two movements in 1986, but Bernstein added a third -- and eventually a fourth and final section -- presenting the finished piece with the IPO for the first time on April 24, 1989.
This composition was engrossing, humorous, noisy, entertaining and joyous -- and so, reflective of the musicians in the IPO. In the opening "Free Style Events," all the musicians shouted seven times the Hebrew number for 7 (sheva), completing this recitation with the word hamishim ("50"), affirming the IPO's 50th anniversary.
The second movement, "Mixed Doubles," presented short duets played by unusual pairings of instruments, including French horn and oboe; trumpet and double bass; clarinet and trombone; two violins; oboe and bassoon; and a very jazzy, extended percussion section. All of these wild sounds resolved to a simple major chord.
The third movement, "Diaspora Dances," contained hints of klezmer rhythms and dances written in different time signatures. The final movement, "Benediction," concluded with the biblical and liturgical "Three-Fold Priestly Benediction," chanted in a cantorial style.
Dudamel was in total control throughout, communicating his ideas with very clear baton work and left-hand gestures, occasionally conducting with just his head and body. He let the music speak, without drawing unnecessary attention to himself.
And then, after intermission, he led the IPO in a highly charged performance of Brahms' "Fourth Symphony."
Philadelphia native Miriam Hartman, completing her 25th year as principal violist, played a beautiful solo. The Brahms was followed by many curtain calls and two short encores -- testimony to its memorable presentation.
The IPO can, and did, play extremely loudly without losing its elegance, as well as very softly without sacrificing their rhythmic clarity and forward motion.
Take it from me: Gustavo Dudamel is absolutely the real deal!