Magazine article Newsweek

Passing the Baton to the Next Wunderkind

Magazine article Newsweek

Passing the Baton to the Next Wunderkind

Article excerpt

Byline: Cathleen McGuigan

When conductor Gustavo Dudamel mounted the podium in his debut with the New York Philharmonic in November, he was carrying something special. Moments before he went onstage for the first of four concerts, the orchestra's archivist went to his dressing room to lend him a baton used by Leonard Bernstein. "I could not speak," says Dudamel. And he was speechless again, near the end of his last concert, when the baton suddenly snapped in two. But it wasn't a bad omen -- even without that talisman, the comparisons to Bernstein (who broke plenty of batons himself) were starting to stick. Only 26, Dudamel is a hugely talented conductor whose infectious delight in music echoes Bernstein's electric appeal. But it's more than his charisma, says Deborah Borda, the president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, who signed Dudamel to become its music director in 2009. As violinist Gil Shaham, the soloist for the New York concerts, puts it, "With Gustavo, the chops are all there. The technique, the mastery -- he has it all."

Since the Venezuelan wonder boy won an international competition in Germany in 2004, he's created a sensation in classical music. Simon Rattle of the Berlin Philharmonic called him "the most astonishingly gifted conductor I've come across." The son of a trombone player, Dudamel grew up with music. He recalls finding a yellowed book on sight reading -- "it was a small book with a wonderful smell" -- in his father's library when he was 4 or 5, and he began to teach himself. …

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