June 12, 2017

To launch his eighth and final summer as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert follows the last Lincoln Center appearances of his tenure by leading all four free outdoor concerts in the orchestra’s historic Concerts in the Parks, presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer. Held under the stars in four New York borough parks, this season’s edition features works premiered by the Philharmonic and composed in its hometown; the culmination of the orchestra’s season-long The New World Initiative; and traditional post-concert firework displays (June 13–16). Next, in the final international appearances of his directorship, Gilbert takes the Philharmonic to Shanghai for programs showcasing Yefim Bronfman, Wynton Marsalis, and Mahler’s Seventh Symphony (July 2–7). At the orchestra’s 15th annual summer residency at the Bravo! Vail Music Festival, he leads concerts highlighted by the world premiere of Julia Adolphe’s White Stone and concerto collaborations with Artist-in-Association Inon Barnatan, Anne-Marie McDermott, and Leonidas Kavakos (July 22–28). Finally, at Music Academy of the West, Gilbert not only concludes the season in company with Renée Fleming and the Academy Festival Orchestra (Aug 5), but also – in what marks both his last appearance as Music Director of the Philharmonic and the largest classical event in Santa Barbara history – takes the podium for a star-studded account of Beethoven’s Ninth, drawing his truly transformative tenure to a close in a blaze of fireworks over the ocean (July 31). As New York magazine recently noted, “Gilbert has spent the last weeks of his tenure making sure that we’ll miss him.”

52nd Annual Concerts in the Parks: “New World” Symphony and more

Since their inception in 1965, the New York Philharmonic’s free Concerts in the Parks have become a summer institution, enabling more than 14 million New Yorkers to picnic to the classics under the stars. Nine years ago, when Gilbert led the second of two Concerts in the Parks as Music Director Designate, the New York Times found that “the concert was terrific,” and considered his dedication “an encouraging indicator of his desire to connect with New York audiences.” Indeed, as the conductor told last year’s Central Park audience of some 50,000 people, for him, these “free concerts embody the orchestra more than anything we do.

This season, he leads a program featuring works premiered by the Philharmonic and composed in its hometown: Symphony No. 9, “From the New World” by Dvořák, the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story by Bernstein, and An American in Paris by Gershwin, all of whom – like the conductor – made New York their home. Premiered by the Philharmonic back in 1893, Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony forms the centerpiece of the orchestra’s season-long The New World Initiative, designed to make the beloved symphony a cultural touchstone for as many New Yorkers as possible. It was with Gilbert’s “majestic performance” of the work, in which “the orchestra summoned dark, weighty sound in surging symphonic passages and delicate transparency in bucolic episodes” (New York Times), that he and the Philharmonic launched the present season. To conclude The New World Initiative, Alan Gilbert will lead audiences attending the 2017 Concerts in the Parks in community performances of the “Goin’ Home” theme from the Largo movement of the “New World” Symphony preceding all four free outdoor concerts. As in previous seasons, all four open-air concerts will conclude with a festive display of fireworks. Gilbert explains:

“The 2017 Concerts in the Parks will be particularly meaningful to me. I have loved this series since I was a kid, and I was backstage with the musicians at a 2007 parks concert when they were told I would be the next Music Director. This summer exemplifies what our parks concerts should be: music by New York icons Bernstein and Gershwin, and Dvořák’s New World Symphony, which is central to New York and Philharmonic history. Our magnificent tour of the city’s parks, in which we get to share our music with all of our fellow citizens in these beautiful, star-lit settings, is the ideal way to conclude my tenure in New York.”

Mahler, Marsalis and more in Shanghai

As part of the Shanghai Orchestra Academy and Residency Partnership, a cornerstone and founding component of the New York Philharmonic Global Academy, Gilbert and the orchestra return to Shanghai for a third annual performance residency. This sees the Music Director leading three programs, the first of which pairs Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony with Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto, with Avery Fisher Prize-winner Yefim Bronfman as soloist (July 2). It was the powerhouse pianist who served as the Philharmonic’s 2013-14 Artist-in-Residence, when “the rapport between orchestra, Gilbert, and soloist … flourished across this season” (New York Classical Review).

Characterized by its progress from darkness to light, Mahler’s Seventh Symphony plays an important part in Gilbert’s final weeks with the Philharmonic, and he conducts it for their second concert in Shanghai (July 3). He has long excelled in the Bohemian composer and former Philharmonic Music Director’s music; it was with Mahler’s Sixth that he first convinced “all who heard it that New York City [had] set its own homegrown star on the musical firmament” (New York Classical Review), and with the composer’s “Resurrection” Symphony that his “inspired” account drew an “ovation [that] went on for ten minutes” (New York Times).

To conclude the Shanghai residency, Gilbert and the Philharmonic join forces with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis for the Asian premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winner Wynton Marsalis’s The Jungle (Symphony No. 4). Marking the first of the Philharmonic’s New York Commissions, The Jungle is a musical portrait of the two orchestras’ shared native city, which Marsalis considers the “most fluid, pressure-packed, and cosmopolitan metropolis the modern world has ever seen.” As at its world premiere this past winter, when the New York Times admired “the originality of Mr. Marsalis’s teeming musical imagination and the precision of his technique,” Gilbert pairs the new symphony with another depiction of urban life: Copland’s Quiet City, with Philharmonic principal trumpet Christopher Martin and English horn player Grace Shryock as soloists (July 7).

Bravo! Vail Music Festival and Music Academy of the West

Back in the States, Gilbert helms the Philharmonic at its two annual residencies in the American west. At Colorado’s Bravo! Vail Music Festival, he leads four concerts, highlighted by the world premiere of a new festival commission. Titled White Stone, this is the work of New York native Julia Adolphe, whose multiple honors include a 2016 Lincoln Center Emerging Artists Award. Gilbert and the orchestra previously premiered Adolphe’s Dark Sand, Sifting Light – “a colorful, mercurial, deftly orchestrated piece” (New York Times) – in 2014’s inaugural NY PHIL BIENNIAL, the citywide new-music immersion that remains one of the most celebrated innovations of Gilbert’s tenure. White Stone’s premiere shares the program with the “New World” Symphony and Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F, with Bravo! Vail’s distinguished Artistic Director, Anne-Marie McDermott, as soloist (July 26).

Also at Bravo! Vail, Gilbert reprises Mahler’s Seventh Symphony (July 27); presents Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique alongside Brahms’s Violin Concerto, featuring the Philharmonic’s 2016-17 Artist-in-Residence and 2014 Gramophone Artist of the Year Leonidas Kavakos (July 22); and pairs Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto, in which Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan makes his final appearance as the orchestra’s Artist-in-Association, with the master composer’s “Choral” Symphony. For this, the conductor and orchestra will be joined by a stellar quartet of vocal soloists – soprano Susanna Phillips, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, tenor Joseph Kaiser, and bass Morris Robinson – as well as the Colorado Symphony Chorus under Duain Wolfe (July 28).

California’s Music Academy of the West is the first American partner in the New York Philharmonic Global Academy, which was established to help develop the next generation of orchestral musicians. To celebrate the fourth season of this pioneering partnership, Gilbert conducts the Academy Festival Orchestra in the summer’s closing concert, which pairs Brahms’s First Symphony with Strauss’s Four Last Songs, starring four-time Grammy Award-winning soprano Renée Fleming (Aug 5). Finally, it is Gilbert and the Philharmonic who anchor the Academy’s historic 70th Anniversary Community Concert at Santa Barbara City College’s ocean-side La Playa Stadium, for which more than 6,500 free and ten-dollar tickets will be available. Marking his very last appearance as Music Director of the orchestra, Gilbert once again leads Beethoven’s iconic Ninth Symphony in company with Phillips, Kaiser, and Robinson, this time with mezzo Sasha Cooke and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. The largest of its kind in Santa Barbara’s history, the event – and Gilbert’s game-changing directorship – will conclude with a festive display of fireworks over the ocean (July 31).

A transformative tenure

In his eight seasons as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, Gilbert – the first native New Yorker to hold the post – has succeeded in transforming the orchestra, already one of the nation’s most venerable arts institutions, into a leader on the cultural landscape. Under Gilbert’s leadership, the Philharmonic created the positions of The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence, The Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence, and Artist-in-Association; programmed innovatively staged productions of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre, Janácek’s Cunning Little Vixen, Stravinsky’s Petrushka, and Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake, all of which were led by Gilbert, scoring full houses, and making multiple year-end top-ten lists; and initiated the CONTACT! new-music series and the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, which in both 2014 and 2016 “made New York the capital of the international contemporary-music community” (New York Times). As New York magazine points out: “Alan Gilbert leaves his successor Jaap van Zweden a legacy of sonic splendor: On any given night, the orchestra sounds unimpeachably superb.” The New Yorker describes Gilbert’s tenure as “the most intellectually lively in the recent history of the orchestra,” and the New York Times considers him perhaps “the biggest change agent to lead the Philharmonic since Pierre Boulez.” Indeed, the conductor has been hailed as “a force of permanent revolution” (New York magazine) who “has made an indelible mark on the orchestra’s history and that of the city itself” (New Yorker), “building a legacy that matters and … helping to change the template for what an American orchestra can be” (New York Times). As Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times concluded his recent reflection on this extraordinary legacy, “I’ll join the chorus: Thank you, Alan Gilbert.” Click here to see the New York Philharmonic’s dedicated farewell page to its departing Music Director.

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Alan Gilbert: final concerts as Music Director of New York Philharmonic

June 13
New York, NY
Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx
New York Philharmonic
Dvořák: Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”
Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
Gershwin: An American in Paris

June 14
New York, NY
Central Park, Manhattan
New York Philharmonic
Dvořák: Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”
Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
Gershwin: An American in Paris

June 15
New York, NY
Cunningham Park, Queens
New York Philharmonic
Dvořák: Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”
Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
Gershwin: An American in Paris

June 16
New York, NY
Prospect Park, Brooklyn
New York Philharmonic
Dvořák: Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”
Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
Gershwin: An American in Paris

July 2
Shanghai, China
New York Philharmonic
Dvořák: Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 (with Yefim Bronfman, piano)

July 3
Shanghai, China
New York Philharmonic
Mahler: Symphony No. 7

July 7
Shanghai, China
New York Philharmonic & Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis: The Jungle (Symphony No. 4) (with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis)
Copland: Quiet City (with Christopher Martin, trumpet; Grace Shryock, English horn)

July 22
Vail, Colorado
Bravo! Vail Music Festival
New York Philharmonic
Brahms: Violin Concerto (with Leonidas Kavakos, violin)
Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

July 26
Vail, Colorado
Bravo! Vail Music Festival
New York Philharmonic
Julia Adolphe: White Stone (world premiere of Bravo! Vail commission)
Gershwin: Concerto in F (with Anne-Marie McDermott, piano)
Dvořák: Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”

July 27
Vail, Colorado
Bravo! Vail Music Festival
New York Philharmonic
Mahler: Symphony No. 7

July 28
Vail, Colorado
Bravo! Vail Music Festival
New York Philharmonic
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 2 (with Inon Barnatan, piano)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (with Susanna Phillips, soprano; Jennifer Johnson Cano, mezzo-soprano; Joseph Kaiser, tenor; Morris Robinson, bass; Colorado Symphony Chorus / Duain Wolfe)

July 31
Santa Barbara, California
Music Academy of the West
New York Philharmonic
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (with Susanna Phillips, soprano; Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano; Joseph Kaiser, tenor; Morris Robinson, bass; Los Angeles Master Chorale / Grant Gershon)

Aug 5
Santa Barbara, California
Music Academy of the West
Academy Festival Orchestra
Strauss: Four Last Songs (with Renée Fleming, soprano)
Brahms: Symphony No. 1

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© 21C Media Group, June 2017