This week, Los Angeles has been celebrating the arrival of wunderkind conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who officially took the reins as conductor and music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Composer and multi-instrumentalist Pedro Eustache (Music MFA 91) couldn’t be more proud of his fellow countryman and fellow student of Venezuela’s hallowed El Sistema, a program that saves many underserved children from violence and poverty through music education.
“I think it’s extremely significant not only for the city, but to the states and the country, and the world to see a person coming from what is considered a third-world country and impacting the culture to this extent. It’s an amazing thing. I think we all win with this,” said Eustache in a phone interview from his Castaic, Calif., home. “Music will benefit tremendously from this, and I think he [Dudamel] is very aware of his responsibility.”
The two kindred spirits finally met in person in November 2007, and during this meeting, Eustache recalls Dudamel asking, “Pedro, we have to do something together. What do you want to do?” His response to the conductor’s question came in the form of a 45-minute, 12-movement musical piece: the Suite Concertante for World Woodwinds and Symphony Orchestra.
When asked about his inspiration of the piece, Eustache–a deeply religious man–paraphrased J.S. Bach, who said that creating music was for the glory of God and the sublimation of the human spirit.
The concertante had its world premiere on Feb. 8, in Caracas, Venezuela, with the Simón Bolivar Venezuelan Youth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dudamel, and Eustache as a featured soloist on 21 woodwinds. The response was so overwhelming that they quickly scheduled a second command performance four days later.
Eustache recalls a conversation he had with the conductor when he submitted the movements for approval. “He told me: ‘We’re going to do this all over the world.’ I hope he remembers he said that!”
The videos are Movements 1 and 2 (above) and Movements 5 and 6 from Eustache’s Suite Concertante for World Woodwinds and Symphony Orchestra. If you cannot see the videos, please click here.