For the 2006 festival's opening concert, Dudamel conducted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and pianist Yundi Li in a program of the overture from Verdi's La Forza del destino, Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5.
The news agency EFE reports that the jury awarded the prize to Dudamel because of his "talent, his conducting style and for the indelible memory that his extraordinary concert left in the memory of the festival."
According to EFE, Dudamel said in a statement from Tel Aviv, "It is precisely in moments like these that we can understand the great power of music to give serenity to our hearts and our souls. I dream that music can help create a better world."
Dudamel was born in 1981 in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. He began studying the violin at four and later joined the Sim‹n Bol‹var National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela; he was appointed its music director in 1999. The orchestra, which has worked with conductors including Claudio Abbado and Simon Rattle, will release a disc of Beethoven's Symphonies Nos. 5 and 7 (conducted by Dudamel) in September, the first release on their exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon.
Dudamel first came to international attention in 2004 when he was the first winner of the Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition in Bamberg, Germany; in short order he acquired international management (Askonas Holt) and a recording contract (Deutsche Grammophon). In the 2006-07 season he will debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, among others. He has re-engagements with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Filarmonica della Scala, Bamberger Symphoniker, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra of London and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, of which he will become principal conductor from the 2007-08 season.