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Dudamel unleashes Verdi's Requiem

Conducting the LA Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel demonstrated his command and also his respect for silence when he restarted the piece after a cellphone ring jarred the opening bars.

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Venezuelan born, Gustavo Dudamel, the new music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Sylvia Lleli Courtesy of LA Philharmonics

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This city's newest crossover artist, Venezuelan musical superstar Gustavo Dudamel tackled Verdi's Requiem this week and showed a sell-out crowd why the classical music world has such high expectations for this 28-year-old.

The work for orchestra and chorale, contains some of the most delicately quiet and urgently loud moments in the universe of unamplified music. To take both an audience and an orchestra through those treacherous extremes is only one of the skills this youthful maestro possesses, says Judith Mass, who plays in the first violin section of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Standing in the airy foyer of the Walt Disney Concert Hall immediately after the performance, Ms. Mass muses about the 85-minute performance in which she had just played.

"I think he's the first of the greats of this century," she says, warming to the qualities that already single him out. "He has this great humility at the same time as an extraordinary humanity," she says, adding that despite his youth and newness to the LA orchestra, in rehearsals Mr. Dudamel takes complete responsibility for the sound of the ensemble. "We can see him thinking and all he will say is that it is his fault if the orchestra doesn't sound as he thinks it should."

She also points out that the orchestra itself had a major transition to handle when it moved into the relatively new concert hall in 2003. The company had been used to playing in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion next door, but the acoustics of the new venue are so improved that the entire group had to both rethink its own touch as well as raise audience awareness.

"We never had this kind of appreciation for silence before, but Dudamel does. We've had to retrain audiences to become much more quiet," she adds, with a knowing laugh.

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