Under the heading "Party in the Felsenreitschule," the Munich daily Münchner Merkur boldly proclaimed: "Venezuela's Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra guests at the Salzburg Festival - and delivers the biggest audience hit of the summer." Rarely has an orchestra reached out and grabbed its audience in such a visceral manner; and even more rarely has such a feat been accomplished by an orchestra of youngsters between the ages of 12 and 26! The Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, the Salzburg Festival's resident orchestra of 2008, is a product of the "Sistema de Orquestas" set up to allow children of all social levels to learn a musical instrument and play in an ensemble. Some of the Sistema's finest players were picked to form the S.B.Y.O. and to work in Salzburg with such outstanding musicians as Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Martha Argerich. Documenting their activity there is the program "School for the Ear" featuring here Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony. Conducting is the Sistema's most celebrated alumnus, Gustavo Dudamel, born in 1981. The young maestro, who was appointed chief conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in 2007, is, in the words of the Salzburg Festival's music director, "the most charismatic conductor since Leonard Bernstein."


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