Courtesy of LA Philharmonic

Making all the right noises: Dudamel conducts ‘The Rite of Spring’

By Charlize Althea Garcia, May 17, 2022

Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic took the Walt Disney Concert Hall by storm as they performed pieces from Nante, Ginastera and Stravinsky on May 7.  

 “El Rio De Luz,” translated as “The River of Light,” composed by Alex Nante was the first piece performed. Sprights of percussion, the light, erupted as the strings and winds, the river, coalesced with each other. A complete opposite of a cacophony, the strings blended so well with each other that it induced a slight feeling of irritation. It was as if I was chasing after a melody, and I couldn’t grasp it. The percussion alongside the rest of the orchestra was like oil and water; they were their own entity. Undoubtedly, there was beauty in their discourse, their relationship with each other contributed to the execution of the narrative which seemed to be a literal representation of the title.  

A complete reversal, the second piece performed was “Estancia” by Alberto Ginastera. “Estancia” was composed as a ballet centralizing on a romance between a city boy and a country girl. Hoping to win her over, he proves his rustic adroitness by showcasing his skills as a horseman and dancer. The piece was paired with a poem by José Hernández, “Martín Fierro,” which is based on a nationalist expression of a gaucho. The introduction radiated a spirit of gaiety through both the lively orchestra and the vibrancy of the piece.  

Courtesy of LA Philharmonic

Throughout the first movement, some parts would directly and effortlessly conjure up a scene in a gaucho’s life. Following the merriment of the first scene, the second dance, “The Wheat Dance,” emits a soothing tone lulling the audience into a comforting trance. The flute and violin soli throughout the dance subsided the energy emitted from before, softening our dewy-eyed eyes and ears. The final scene featured a pith of jauntiness that revived the spirit from the first dance and ended the piece with enthusiasm.  

Gustavo Castillo, baritone and narrator, recited the poem with animation, effectively communicating the emotion within each line of the poem to the audience. He had an air of playfulness as well as an emotive demeanor that complemented his sonorous sound. Nearing the end, I was taken aback as he let out the most bewitching cry. Castillo’s presence, both in performance and voice, enhanced the story as well as the Philharmonic.  

Another complete reversal, the orchestra turned to Stravinsky to wake up the spry audience. Stravinsky’s pieces make me think of him as an artist who’s always on edge. Nevertheless, this isn’t an some kind of analysis of his thought process; however, his inspiration of the piece is rather questionable. The idea behind the “Rite of Spring” was conspired by an eerie dream involving a pagan ritual, the sacrifice of a virgin and dancing to the death. That in itself screams “contemporary,” although, I don’t think I would go as far as to call him that.  

“The Rite of Spring” was composed by Igor Stravinsky in 1913. Going back approximately a century ago, the reaction to “The Rite of Spring” evoked only shock and scandal. You would think, now in the 21st century, our ears would acclimate to the elements of eccentricities within the piece. Yet, you could feel this same feeling of shock or curiosity. His pieces are timeless.  

The audience was introduced by a mesmeric bassoon solo in “Adoration of the Earth,” charming its way into our ears, instilling this impenetrable tranquility which is soon to be interrupted by “The Augurs of Spring.” Beautifully executed by the orchestra, this infamous melody jolted the audience up to their seats. Dudamel, parallel with the orchestra, displayed an aura of extreme assiduity and conducted with gusto. Each movement, from the first to the last, had this form of ferocity whether it was understated or unapologetically in your face. “Glorification of the Chosen One” flaunted its rhythmically intricate and hefty sound with the strings and winds roaring as the percussion section bellows in response. The Philharmonic orchestra had, somehow, visually kept their composure as they performed, contrasting the overwhelming energy in their sound. Uniting both composition and story, it can be honestly said that Stravinsky sure knew how to keep an audience awake.  

Not for the faint-hearted, this program was one of my favorites. Each piece had its own bolt from the blue, and you could feel everyone’s receptiveness to the intensity. In lieu of yawning, you could see that gasping was instead contagious within the audience. Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic once again delivered a revered performance that left me awestruck. 

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