Tim Ashley 

Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra/Dudamel – review

The decibel count was immense and the playing immaculate, writes Tim Ashley. Dudamel gave us a measured interpretation of the Strauss ... with some extraordinary things in the second half
  
  

Given that the Simón Bolívar Symphony Symphony Orchestra's ethos is so integrally linked to ideas of cultural regeneration, it seemed appropriate that the final concert of their London visit with Gustavo Dudamel should open with something new.

Esteban Benzecry's Rituales Amerindios is an evocation of pre-columbian deities of wind, water and thunder, conceived on a colossal scale and geared to the Bolívars' ability to generate formidable sonic weight, as well as to their exceptional technical prowess. It's also likely, however, to divide opinion. Even though the music pulverises, its eclecticism is also very apparent. The influence of Bartók, Stravinsky and, above all, Prokofiev in primitivist-constructivist mode is too overt. The playing dazzles, but the piece itself is at times unoriginal.

Another enormous work, Strauss's Alpine Symphony came after the interval. Once again, the decibel count was immense and the playing immaculate. Conducting from memory, Dudamel gave us a measured
interpretation that compensated for an occasional lack of excitement
at the start with some extraordinary things in the second half, where
Strauss uses extended chromatic suspensions to suggest the constantly
shifting perspectives with which he views natural landscapes.

Bryn Terfel with the Simon Bolivar Orch/Dudamel
Bryn Terfel in old-fashioned Wotan gear, who made a surprise appearance for the encore. Photograph: Chris Christodoulou


Shortly before the concert, meanwhile, rumours began circulating that there was to be an appearance by a "celebrity guest". And when we reached encore time, Bryn Terfel arrived on the platform in old-fashioned Wotan gear – fur cloak, horned hat, eyepatch and spear – to deliver Abendlich Strahlt from Wagner's Das Rheingold, at several points causing concern that the violinist sitting behind him would be clobbered by the aforementioned spear, which Terfel waved horizontally. The orchestral textures were strikingly lucid rather than heavy. There was a standing ovation when it was over.

 

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