Gustavo Dudamel will take over as music director of the New York Philharmonic for the 2026-27 season, capping off an illustrious career with the Los Angeles Philharmonic that began in 2009.
The orchestra announced Tuesday that the 42-year-old Venezuelan conductor has agreed to a five-year contract as artistic and music director of the New York Philharmonic. Dudamel will be the orchestra’s first Latino conductor since its inception in 1842.
“What the orchestra told us very clearly was that the person they wanted, their dream candidate, was Gustavo,” said Deborah Borda, CEO of the New York Philharmonic. “When you’re trying to hire the most sought-after conductor in the world, you don’t conduct a traditional search.”
Dudamel, who will be music director designate in 2025-26, will also continue to be music director of the Paris Opera, a position he has held since 2021, and of Venezuela’s Simón Bolvar Symphony Orchestra, a position he took in 1999 that brought him international acclaim.
In a statement, Dudamel quoted the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who said, “Every step we take on earth brings us to a new world.”
“I look forward to the world that awaits me in New York City, and I look back with pride and love on the world that I have shared — and will continue to share — with my dear Angelenos over the next three seasons and beyond,” Dudamel said. “We are all united in our belief that culture makes the world a better place, and in our dream that music is a fundamental right.”
Jaap van Zweden announced in September 2021 that he would leave the New York Philharmonic at the end of the 2023-24 season, capping a six-season tenure as music director that will be the shortest since Pierre Boulez took over for Leonard Bernstein and led the orchestra from 1971 to 1977.
In simultaneous announcements at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall and Walt Disney Concert Hall, Borda informed the New York orchestra and Dudamel informed the Los Angeles musicians of his decision. Following a $550 million renovation that improved acoustics, sightlines, and amenities, the New York Philharmonic returned to Geffen Hall in October.
The New York Philharmonic will introduce him at a press conference on February 20.
Dudamel is one of the few conductors who has gained mainstream attention in recent years. Dudamel, who conducted the soundtrack to Steven Spielberg’s 2021 remake of Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story,” appeared to be based on a character in Amazon’s “Mozart in the Jungle.”
In November 2007, Dudamel made his New York Philharmonic debut. He has led the orchestra 26 times and will conduct three performances of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony from May 19 to 21.
“Dudamel’s infectious joy, deep musicality, and humanism connect with audiences,” Borda said of the pianist.
Borda, who is retiring as CEO of the New York Philharmonic at the end of this season, was the CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic when she hired Dudamel to succeed Esa-Pekka Salonen as music director for the 2009-10 season.
“I recall the first time we tried to book him — he didn’t even have a manager. “And look how far he’s come since then,” Borda said. “I hadn’t seen such a conductor since Bernstein.”
Gary Ginstling, who has led Washington’s National Symphony Orchestra since 2017, will succeed Borda, who returned to New York in 2017 for her second stint in charge.
“He was truly the one conductor who had the potential to be transformational for the future of this institution,” Ginstling said of Dudamel. “He’ll be able to attract new audiences, younger audiences, and a wider range of audiences.”
Dudamel rose to prominence through Venezuela’s “El Sistema (The System)” music education programme, where he worked with young musicians. In 2004, he won the Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition. While Dudamel initially refused to discuss Venezuela’s economic and political turmoil, he did criticise his country’s government for suppressing protests in 2017. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro then cancelled the Simón Bolvar Symphony Orchestra’s tours in the United States.
Dudamel’s contract with the Los Angeles Philharmonic was extended through 2025-26 three years ago, and his 17 seasons with the orchestra will tie Salonen’s record. According to the LA Philharmonic’s tax returns, Dudamel earned $775,000 from the orchestra in the COVID-impacted fiscal year ending September 30, 2021, down from $3.55 million the previous year.
In 2005, he signed an exclusive recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon. Borda stated that details such as recordings and the number of weeks Dudamel will commit to will be announced at the news conference.