Monday, August 20, 2007

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness


If you didn't see the Simón Bolívar National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela at the Proms last night, you missed a treat, and you should hunt down the TV and Radio broadcasts on your internet without delay. They're an astonishingly accomplished bunch, and play with a verve and enthusiasm that's truly inspiring.

Of course, life's rarely that simple. As an excellent post by the estimable Pliable explains, the orchestra and their conductor Gustavo Dudamel find themselves in an unfortunate political position as representatives of a country ruled by Hugo Chávez, and some accuse them of being de facto apologists for his regime, particularly when they performed the national anthem at the launch of the state-controlled TVes channel, following the closure of RCTV.

it's very easy for the likes of us in Europe to criticize, and I wonder what any of us would do in the same situation. I think of those who condemn Shostakovich for not being openly dissident enough for their liking, and wonder how they'd last in the sort of totalitarian terror he had to endure. I also wonder if, in his choice of Shostakovich, as well as the unapologetically American Bernstein, for their prom, Dudamel is perhaps sending a more ambivalent message about his homeland than we're giving him credit for.

2 comments:

Cheerful One said...

I thought it was just about the most exciting thing I'd seen on television for some time; and that was before they put on coloured clothes and started throwing their instruments about.

I had a YouTube video of that somewhere about the place but it seems to have disappeared..

Lucia said...

I really wish I'd been there.
They're going to start up a similar scheme in Scotland too:

http://www.musicmanifesto.co.uk/news/details/Scotland-imports-Venezuelan-style-youth-orchestras/20681