The concert series led by Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel that began in Caracas last Saturday is evidence of the rise of “El Sistema” as an “extraordinary” emerging force in the global classical music scene, according to an article published today in the New York Times.
The article describes the musical exchange between Venezuela and the U.S. as part of the series “With Dudamel for Peace,” which brings together the LA Philharmonic – which Dudamel conducts – the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, the System of Youth Orchestras and Choirs of Venezuela, and Schola Cantorum of Venezuela.
“The concerts are a concrete sign of how the Philharmonic, with Mr. Dudamel at its helm, has become the most visible symbol of El Sistema in the United States,” the Times reports.
Since late February, El Sistema – whose philosophy has inspired several youth orchestras in the U.S. – and the LA Philharmonic have joined together to perform all the symphonies of Gustav Mahler as part of “Project Mahler.” The first cycle of concerts was held in Los Angeles. Now, 100 musicians from the LA Philharmonic are in Venezuela to perform the symphonies alongside their South American counterparts under Dudamel’s leadership.
“The fact that this amazing orchestra is coming here to give to our children and to our youth and to our people their music, their energy, is a dream come true for me,” Dudamel said. “How amazing is it to have one of the best orchestras here with us, not only as a guest orchestra, because at the end we have become one family.”
For her part, LA Philharmonic President Deborah Borda told the Times: “We’re here because of an inspirational and philosophical and social movement… We feel deeply convinced we want to be a part of it. This is not a political trip. This is a musical and social trip.”
During their visit to Venezuela, the L.A.-based musicians are participating in training sessions and receiving magister classes with the musicians of El Sistema. According to the Times, the percussion section of the LA Philharmonic visited El Sistema’s Center for Social Action to meet the Percussion Ensemble of Los Llanos, a group comprised of musicians from the Guanare chapter of El Sistema located five hours southwest of Caracas.
The orchestras will join forces to perform Mahler’s Eighth Symphony this Saturday evening at 6 pm in Caracas at the Teresa Carreño Theater. They will be accompanied by a choir of 1,300 people. For Dudamel, the concert, which will be transmitted in high definition to theaters in the U.S., is “a beautiful example” of union in which “two orchestras from two different countries became one.”
El Sistema is a publicly-funded program offering music education to low-income children in communities throughout Venezuela. It currently involves nearly half a million young people across the country.
El Sistema has received crucial support from the government of President Hugo Chávez. In November 2011, the Venezuelan government announced that $38 million would be allocated to the program.
Press Office – Venezuelan Embassy to the U.S. / February 15, 2012