El Sistema: Music to Change Life

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bernstein etc,Ravel
LABELS: EuroArts
PERFORMER: José Antonio Abreu; Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra/Gustavo Dudamel
CATALOGUE NO: 880242569585 (NTSC system; PCM-stereo; 16:9 picture format)

 This is the second DVD on Venezuela’s remarkable and inspirational music education project to have come my way. Yet unlike DG’s documentary The Promise of Music, which focused specifically on the work of Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra, Paul Smaczny’s equally riveting El Sistema offers a more holistic approach. Dudamel and his orchestra are still an imposing presence, providing among other things a strongly characterised performance of Ravel’s La valse and the inevitable high-octane Mambo from Bernstein’s West Side Story
But the main emphasis here is placed upon the missionary zeal of José Antonio Abreu, the visionary politician who masterminded the Sistema some 30 years ago. Abreu’s staunchly held belief in the capacity of music to better people’s lives is nowhere more eloquently illustrated than in the extensive exploration of the performing opportunities that have become available to children living in the crime-ridden ghettoes
of the country’s main cities.   
Clearly someone who refuses to rest on his laurels, Abreu is also seen directing his team of committed assistants to establish increasingly bold ventures. Among the most heart-rending sections of the film is one in which an orchestra is established in an area where most children survive from scavenging rubbish dumps. Erik Levi