Simón Bolívar SO/Dudamel review – Venezuela's finest on world-class form

Royal Albert Hall, London
Finely judged Ravel shone alongside vivid works by South American composers in a Prom that highlighted the orchestra’s fluid excellence

In 2011 the Simón Bolívar Orchestra dropped the word “youth” from its name, and the playing has indeed matured alongside its players. Under chief conductor Gustavo Dudamel, the best of its performances here reached a world-class standard of organic coherence and tonal excellence.

They began with a work by Venezuelan composer and founding member of the orchestra, Paul Desenne. His Hipnosis Mariposa is a lightweight trifle written in memory of one of Venezuela’s popular composers, Simón Díaz, who died in 2014 and whose song La vaca Mariposa (A Cow Named Butterfly) forms the thematic basis of a piece that demonstrated the ensemble’s delicacy and fluent unanimity.

Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras No 2 followed, one of a series of works in which Brazil’s best known composer brought together his almost mystical fascination with Bach and his country’s folk culture, its ideas delivered with a keen appreciation of their vivid colour and striking rhythms.

But where Dudamel and his players really shone was in the all-Ravel second half, which delivered technically accomplished and artistically finely judged accounts of the second suite from Daphnis and Chloé and La Valse. There was a sheeny quality to the orchestra’s tone that lit up the surfaces of these showpieces, while Dudamel brought to La Valse, in particular, a sense of direction that made its self-destructing waltz as disturbing as it was fascinating.

Just one encore on this occasion – a catchy little Venezuelan number arranged by José Terencio that was fast, furious and fun.


George Hall

The GuardianTramp

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