昨年末に日本で演奏会を開いてそれほどマスコミの話題にならなかったヴェネズエラからのクラシックの新風が，その指揮者Gustavo Dudamel が正式にエサ・ペッカ・サロネンの後を継いでロサンゼルス・フィルハーモニーの音楽監督に就任する前に，既に Music Derector Designate として活躍を始め，新風を吹かせています．
先週から，Dudamelは手兵のSimon Bolivar Youth Symphony Orchestra を率いて，ヒューストン，ワシントンD.C. そして昨年からホットなシカゴで演奏会を開いています． この若いオーケストラは，既に２００７年にカーネギーホールで演奏会を開いていますが，ロンドンのRoyal Festival Hall のresidency を約束されており，ベルリン・フィルの音楽監督 Simon Rattle をして "The future of classical music lies in Venezuela." とまでいわせました．
クラシック音楽を中流階層のモノから，低所得層，貧困層の経済的，精神的向上の糧とすることに成功したのは José Abreu(現在６９歳）で，経済学者から音楽界のマエストロに転向した彼が，１９７５年に設立したSimon Bolivar Youth Symphony Orchestra からスタートしたことは，私が2009年2月28日のブログで触れた通りです．
それまで，豊富な原油や野球とミス・コンテスト位でしか知られなかったヴェネズエラに，1998年にHugo Chavez が南米の激しい反米の騎手として登場しますが，幸いなことに，このAbreu もその Simon Bolivar Youth Symphony Orchestra も，彼の"21st-century socialism" のショーケースとすることは控えてきたということがあります．
つまり対立する世界政治に取り込まれなかったことが，Gustavo Dudamel もSimon Bolivar Youth Symphony Orchestra も自由に世界各国に演奏旅行したり，音楽監督や residency に就くことを可能にしています．
Venezuela's Famed Youth Orchestra Visits U.S.
Venezuela is generally known for oil, shortstops, Miss Universes and, for the past decade of course, Hugo Chávez. But the South American country is now recognized as one of the world's most dynamic vessels of classical music, thanks to a 34-year-old program that gives violins, French horns and batons to poor barrio kids and lets them interpret Handel and Tchaikovsky with a Latin verve that last year led Simon Rattle, director of the Berlin Philharmonic, to declare, "The future of classical music lies in Venezuela."
Both sides, thankfully, are smart enough to know that the only man who can take credit for the Simon Bolivar is José Abreu, 69, an economist turned classical-music maestro who saw, or heard, in the urban ranchos (slums) and rural outposts of Venezuela the raw material of virtuosos. Like anyone who has spent time in Caracas ranchos such as Catia or San Agustin, Abreu "perceived amidst the poverty an immense musical talent, the facility for elegant and forceful rhythms," he told TIME in an interview over the weekend. Listening to youths play contrapunto on the small, four-stringed guitar called the cuatro, for example, made him conclude they could also play Bach counterpoint on a cello. (See pictures of South America at LIFE.com.)
And he was right. In 1975 he and those teens and even preteens formed the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra. It not only became a path out of the ranchos, it engendered a network of more than 100 similar youth orchestras around Venezuela that has come to be known simply as El Sistema (The System). It has served some half a million kids since the 1970s and is undoubtedly one of the most successful music-education projects of its kind in the world, emulated today as far away as Scotland. It has also produced its own international superstar: conductor Gustavo Dudamel, 28, who was recently named musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic but is returning to lead the Simon Bolivar on this month's tour of the U.S. and Europe. "Dudamel," says Abreu, "is the incarnation of Venezuela's emergence as a musical power in the world." (Read more about Gustavo Dudamel.)
The 180-member Simon Bolivar, which played Friday in Houston and will perform in Chicago on April 10, is often credited with renewing, if not recreating, the spirit of classical music today. Whether or not it's the world's best youth orchestra (many European music writers say it's still not up to the likes of Germany's Junge Deutsche Philharmonie), few are as vibrant, as it showed in its rousing Carnegie Hall debut in 2007. Abreu describes its core personality as "energy, passion, virtuosity," a "primordial, ardent Latin vitality combined with a high level of technical rigor." The orchestra almost always draws on its vast Latin American repertoire — in the U.S. this week it's playing Venezuelan composer Evencio Castellanos' symphonic suite, Santa Cruz de Pacairigua, which uses joropo folk strains and colorful Latin rhythms in much the same way that Gershwin incorporated jazz in his works — and those pieces have a knack for complementing better known music like Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (also on the Simon Bolivar program this week).
Abreu, who founded the orchestra 24 years before Chávez came to power, was one of the first in Latin America to hit on the democratic notion that folks from the humblest backgrounds can not only appreciate but master high art — and he credits his economic training as much as his musical skills. "I was convinced," he says, "that the way to genuinely develop a country was to develop its human capital, and that means promoting people's talents everywhere, not just the élite." It's gratifying, he adds, to watch his students' families, who are often as attuned to the value of the Sistema orchestras as any U.S. parent sending a child to Juilliard would be, buck the reputation of Venezuela's poor as uncultured niches, or uncouth people. "They're enchanted to see their children practicing this music at home, to see the self-esteem it gives them," he says. "They share it with their neighbors."
Abreu won't say whether he thinks sharing the Simon Bolivar with the U.S. can improve Caracas-Washington relations, which are at their lowest point these days. (Neither country currently has an ambassador in the other.) But he does believe that the orchestra "can't help but promote understanding, not just between the U.S. and Venezuela but the New World and Europe," where the Simon Bolivar will travel next week. Even if these kids can't change the political understanding between the U.S. and Chávez — and who would want to saddle them with such a thankless task? — it's more than enough that they're changing our understanding of classical music.