Star maestro Gustavo Dudamel announced as music director of New York Philharmonic

7 February 2023, 21:22

Gustavo Dudamel to leave LA Philharmonic for New York Philharmonic
Gustavo Dudamel to leave LA Philharmonic for New York Philharmonic. Picture: Stephan Rabold

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

The Venezuelan maestro will take to the helm of America’s oldest symphony orchestra, following in the footsteps of Leonard Bernstein and Gustav Mahler.

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Gustavo Dudamel will become music director of the New York Philharmonic, after a long and successful tenure at the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Founded in 1842, the New York Phil is the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States and has enjoyed eminent names at its helm from Gustav Mahler and Leonard Bernstein to Arturo Toscanini. In 2026, Dudamel will become the orchestra’s first Hispanic leader.

“I am grateful to the musicians and leadership of the New York Philharmonic as we embark on this new and beautiful journey together,” Dudamel said in the orchestra’s announcement, published on Tuesday 7 February.

The maestro also quoted the poetry of Federico García Lorca, adding: “’Every step we take on earth brings us to a new world.’”

Dudamel will be music and artistic director of the orchestra, and will also remain music director of the Paris Opera and of Venezuela’s Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra.

Read more: John Williams conducts a heart-warming birthday surprise for Gustavo Dudamel

Gustavo Dudamel conducts the L.A. Philharmonic in Tchaikovsky's 'Hamlet'

He added in his statement: “I gaze with joy and excitement at the world that lies before me in New York City. All of us are united in our belief that culture creates a better world, and that music is a fundamental right. I look forward to the work ahead.”

Dudamel will be music director designate in the 2025-26 season, and will then become the orchestra’s 27th music director in the 2026-7 season, with a five-year initial contract. He will succeed Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden who said in September 2021 that he would leave the orchestra after the 2023-24 season following a six-year tenure.

It’s a second major signing for the maestro by the chief executive of the New York Phil, Deborah Borda, who first signed a 26-year-old Dudamel to the LA Philharmonic.

Recalling the first day she tried to book him for the LA Phil, Borda told AP: “I hadn’t seen a conductor like this since Bernstein.”

Read more: Conductor Gustavo Dudamel: ‘In music, there are no walls between cultures’

Janine Jansen and Gustavo Dudamel - Mendelssohn Violin Concerto

Born in 1981 in Venezuela, Dudamel began his musical studies with violin lessons at the Jacinto Lara Conservatory. His life on the podium began in 1996 when he began studying with Rodolfo Saglimbeni. Shortly afterwards, he was appointed musical director of the Amadeus Chamber Orchestra.

The maestro has been the artistic director of his home country’s Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra since 1999 and has led the LA Philharmonic since 2009.

A rare pop culture icon in classical music, Dudamel has made appearances on Sesame Street and inspired a character on Mozart in the Jungle.

In 2019, Dudamel led the orchestra for the soundtrack of Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story. Later that year he was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2021, he was announced as the new music director of the Opéra National de Paris.

The maestro has said in his new upcoming role, his main desires will be to champion new music and develop the orchestra’s sound. Further details of recordings and how many weeks he will commit to New York will be revealed at a press conference on 20 February, the orchestra has said.