Gustavo Dudamel at Abu Dhabi Festival preview

Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra perform a joyous set at Emirates Palace

Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra played on Monday night at Emirates Palace. Delores Johnson / The National
Powered by automated translation

The Abu Dhabi Festival gave music fans something to look forward to on Monday night at Emirates Palace.

The festival, which begins on March 2, whetted the audience's appetite with a performance by the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.

The near two-hour performance only ­cemented the reputation of the orchestra and the young maestro for reinvigorating what can be a rather staid musical scene.

While Dudamel is known as a musical firebrand, he led the orchestra on more literal takes of pieces by Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.

In the passionate rendering of The Tempest Dudamel elicited an astonishing clarity from the orchestra; in the Enchanted Island section the woodwinds darted around the mournful French horn like incandescent flies.

The orchestra’s muscle was also flexed in the fight sequence in the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, with the sharp battles between the woodwinds and strings over the enveloping timpani keeping the crowd ­ on edge.

Release came in the encore: the orchestra did their signature take on Leonard Bernstein’s Mambo. The joy in the room was palpable: ecstatic crowds were clapping along as the orchestra surged to their feet to showcase their nifty dance moves.

• For details on the Abu Dhabi Festival, visit