Published February 2012.
So the LA Phil /El Sistema The Mahler Project, A Symphonic Cycle for the New World that began on January 13 in Los Angeles California, finally came to a close last night 18 February more than a month after it began, in another country and another continent. The final event, in Caracas’s Teresa Carreño arts complex (and a host of cinemas around the world), was one of the largest and most successful performances of Mahler Symphony No. 8 of all time. The cycle embraced all of Mahler’s symphonies and more, in a score of concerts in 2 continents, an international symposium of El Sistema practitioners from 13 countries, an exchange programme between the US players and thousands of young Sistema musicians, the launch of a new US Sistema Partnership (Take a Stand), and, naturally, critical acclaim on a humongous scale. But when the dust has settled on this mighty project organised by Venezuela’s Sistema and the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, what will its most enduring legacy be?
Well here’s my guess; of everything I witnessed, the scenes that stand out most were the effect that the young Venezuelan Sistema players had on the seasoned musicians of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. My guess is that it is the US musicians who will return home most changed. This may even be the defining moment when the wheel changes, and we start to reclaim the why of music performance rather than simply concentrating on the how. About time too. So applause all round to the organisers and brains behind this project.
Young Musicians from Guarenas and Guatire nucleos play for the LA Phil in one of the open air spaces at the Teresa Carreño theater complex in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, 16 Feb 2012.