As I mentioned earlier, Vladimir Jurowski has been around College this week, preparing for the Schnittke/Prokofiev concert tonight. I just got back from it, and it was absolutely fantastic.
The Schnittke wasn't exactly my bag. It veered too wildly between camp and meandering modernism. I could tell, however, that it was being delivered forcefully; Jurowski clearly had an interpretation and exacted it from the orchestra. The second half brought better music — Prokofiev's Sixth Symphony — and the result was dynamite. It's not just that his interpretations are lucid and musical; it's that he implements them so clearly. Like the best actors who seem to become their character, he completely dissolves into the music, willing to make whatever gesture is necessary to get the sound he wants, regardless of whether that gesture might come from the standard conducting playbook. I might also add that, though I've heard the RCM orchestra several times before, this was by far the most responsive, tight, and professional performance I've heard from it.
He is, I feel safe to say, the best conductor I've ever witnessed in person. True, I've not yet seen Abbado, Barenboim, Gergiev, or a host of others, but thanks to spending a year in London I have seen Salonen (quite regularly), Tilson Thomas, Haitink, Jansons, Fischer, Zinman, and Gustavo 'the Dude' Dudamel. And for my money, Jurowski's the Dude.