The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel counters pianist Gabriele Montero and defends for art’s sake his remaining distant and quiet about the political and social protests in Venezuela. | March 22, 2014

By Jacob Stockinger

Perhaps you have been seeing the many news reports about the major student-led political and social protests going on in Venezuela. They concern corruption, poverty, food shortages and the general ineptitude of Nicolas Maduro, the narrowly elected leader who followed the populist and leftist strong man Hugo Chavez after he died a year ago.

Venezuela protest 2014

venezuela mass protests

Then the protests spilled over into the artistic world.

Take the Venezuela-born pianist Gabriele Montero (below). You may recall that not long ago she played the Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15, by Ludwig van Beethoven with the Madison Symphony Orchestra under John DeMain. She is also known for her improvisations, once of which she performed as an encore in Madison.

Montero has voiced a strong protest over the deadly upheaval in her native land.

Gabriela Montero

She also called on her colleague, superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel (below), who now leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic as well as the student Simon Bolivar Orchestra in Venezuela, to speak up about what was happening in his homeland. When he didn’t, she took him to task and protested his silence or his tacit endorsement of the failing government.

DudamelChris Christodoulou

Montero compared Dudamel handling of Venezuela to the election endorsements that two well-known Russian musicians with international reputations — conductor Valery Gergiev (below top on the right with Vladimir Putin) and opera diva Anna Netrebko (below bottom on the right with Putin) — gave to Russian President and former KGB agent Vladimir Putin. (Hmm–The Ear wonders how Gergiev and Netrebko stand on Ukraine and the Anschluss or illegal annexation of Crimea.) But that is another issue for another time and another post.

vladimir putin decorates valery gergiev

Anna Netrebko and Vladimir Putin

Here is an open letter that Montero wrote to Dudamel, as it was reprinted in British critic Norman Lebrecht’s blog “Slipped Disc”:

https://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2014/02/an-open-letter-to-gustavo-dudamel-on-the-venezeuala-situation.html

Dudamel has been silent or timid at best, and many have said it is because Hugo Chavez (below top, on the left with Gustavo Dudamel) and his successor Nicolas Maduro (below bottom) have both been generous to “el sistema,” the national music education program out of which Dudamel emerged. Many observers speculated that Dudamel was watching out for the interest of his young followers and successors.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (L) spe

Nicolas Maduro

Here is his letter response to Montero, also as it appear on Lebrecht’s blog:

https://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2014/02/just-in-gustavo-dudamel-replies-to-gabriela-monteros-open-letter.html

But now Dudamel has spoken out forcefully and more at length, defending himself and saying that he intends to keep politics and arts separate.

Except that his removing himself from the controversy is itself political enough, and getting more so. The Ear recalls the saying of the 19-century Romantic French novelist Stendhal that speaking of politics in things of the imagination (like art) is like firing a gun in the middle of a concert.

Anyway, The Ear recently stumbled across a story by The Boston Globe that provided a very good wrap-up of Dudamel’s current position and also included an excellent chronology and summary of the background including Montero’s point of view and accusations.

Here is a link:

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2014/03/15/los-angeles-philharmonic-gustavo-dudamel-will-play-music-not-politics/3jz5l0elMa9InVgR4GCZaI/story.html

What do you think?

Should Gustavo Dudamel speak up about the protests and government killings in Venezuela?

Or should art and politics be kept separate?

Does this controversy change what you think of either pianist Gabriele Montero or conductor Gustavo Dudamel?

The Ear wants to hear.

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2 Comments »

  1. I would hope Dudamel would want to support the late President Chavez, a much misunderstood leader in the United States where the mass media have demonized him and the CIA has tried to oust his government. Why? Certainly for his attempts to help the poor, to create a socialist alternative to capitalist value production. Leading intellectuals worldwide who have examined neoliberal capitalism have pronounced it incompatible with democracy and unsustainable. The Chavez government was attempting to create more equality throughout Venezuela and of course were stymied by opposition from the rich. I taught in universities there, and frankly, the student protests were from the universities of the rich and middle classes…countless more students (ignored in the US media) supported the Chavez government. Chavez admittedly failed in areas such as crime reduction but his accomplishments were many. He will be remember one day as perhaps one of the most courageous leaders of the century. Many Latin American countries mourned his death–of course that is rarely mentioned either. The opposition to Chavez are trying to bring down the country–so they can blame it on Maduro and regain power. Dudamel is a smart man, and realizes he can’t praise Chavez and survive in the US. The corporate media would simply bring Dudamel down.
    And the story on Russia. While I am no fan of Putin, for sure, it is truly sad that the Right Sector and the neo-Nazis from the Ukraine have been given cover by the US media. The unreflective politics of the EAR is an example, and saddens me, and I hope others.

    Comment by Peter — October 9, 2014 @ 2:04 am

  2. […] Classical music: Superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel counters pianist Gabriele Montero and defends f… […]

    Pingback by State Theatre Announces 2014-15 Classical Series — March 24, 2014 @ 7:19 pm


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