January 10, 2019
Alan Gilbert makes his sole U.S. appearances of the season this February, when he leads the Cleveland Orchestra in performances of Haydn’s “Military” Symphony and Busoni’s epic Piano Concerto. The coming months also see the Grammy-winning conductor make his Israel Philharmonic debut with a ten-day, two-city residency; return to Milan’s La Scala for Korngold’s Die tote Stadt; and rejoin five major European ensembles: the Berlin Philharmonic, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, and Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, where, as Chief Conductor Designate, he leads a semi-staged production of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre. These engagements follow a full autumn highlighted by an Asian tour with the Hamburg orchestra and collaborations with the Staatskapelle Dresden and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.
Since serving as its Assistant Conductor in the mid-1990s, Gilbert has shared a rapport with the Cleveland Orchestra that “evince[s] levels of comfort and mutual understanding enjoyed only by the initiated” (Cleveland Plain-Dealer). Last March, his “desire to achieve and savor the ensemble’s very best,” ensured that he and the orchestra enjoyed a “stellar reunion” (Cleveland Plain-Dealer). Now, for his upcoming return to the orchestra, Gilbert pairs Haydn’s “Military” Symphony with Busoni’s Piano Concerto, a monumental rarity that will feature Avery Fisher Prize-winning pianist Garrick Ohlsson and men from the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus (Feb 7 & 9). One of the longest examples of the genre, Busoni’s piano concerto comprises five movements and lasts well over an hour. The New York Times dubs it “a hymn to immoderation,” and the New Yorker considers it “a gaudy, unapologetically over-the-top piece, stuffed with references to 19th-century Romantic styles,” that represents “a remarkable feat of controlled chaos.”
After concluding a transformative eight years as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, Gilbert looks forward to inaugurating his tenure with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra next season. Already hailed as one of “the most important bearers of hope on Hamburg’s cultural scene” (Abendblatt), he recently scored a fifth Grammy nomination for his new Shostakovich recording with the orchestra, and this past fall he led the NDR on tour in Shanghai, Tokyo, Kyoto, Kamakura, Nagoya, and Lübeck, as well as at the Elbphilharmonie, its new state-of-the-art home. Now, to conclude his NDR Elbphilharmonie season, he returns to conduct György Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre in a semi-staged production by Doug Fitch (May 10-13), the visionary director with whom he collaborated on the same opera in New York. Named “Best Classical Performance of 2010” by New York magazine and dubbed an “instant [New York] Philharmonic milestone” by the New York Times, Gilbert’s leadership of the surrealist work was widely acclaimed as a landmark of his New York tenure.
The Berlin Philharmonic is another of the preeminent German orchestras with which the conductor has established most meaningful ties. Indeed, its “musicians have faith in him, letting him unleash his creativity to the fullest” (Berlin Morgenpost). For his return to the orchestra, Gilbert couples the European premiere of Metacosmos, by award-winning Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir, with Strauss’s Sinfonia Domestica and Lisa Batiashvili’s account of Prokofiev’s Second Violin (Jan 24-26).
Gilbert reunites with the Georgian-born violinist for his first performances with the Israel Philharmonic, reprising the Prokofiev during his seven concerts in Tel Aviv and Haifa. He and the orchestra also join Inon Barnatan for Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. “One of the most admired pianists of his generation” (New York Times), the Israeli pianist recently recorded a soon-to-be-issued complete Beethoven cycle with Gilbert and London’s Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Other highlights of the conductor’s Israeli residency include performances of Anders Hillborg’s Exquisite Corpse, of which he is the dedicatee, and of Nielsen’s Third Symphony (“Sinfonia espansiva”) (Feb 17-27).
Also the vehicle for his upcoming appearances with Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra (March 30 & 31), Nielsen’s symphony is one that Gilbert recorded with the New York Philharmonic. Named one of the “Best Classical Music Recordings of 2012” (New York Times), this formed part of “The Nielsen Project,” a long-term initiative recognized as one of the high points of his New York directorship.
Gilbert also spent eight years as Music Director of Sweden’s Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, where he now serves as Conductor Laureate. He rejoins the orchestra this spring for an all-French pairing of Debussy and Lili Boulanger (April 3 & 4), besides showcasing the music of 20th-century Hungarians Ligeti and Bartók at the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, where he is a regular and favored guest (March 16).
To round out the spring season, the conductor returns to Milan’s La Scala for Korngold’s Die tote Stadt in a production by Graham Vick (May 28–June 17). Already a major player on the opera scene, Gilbert served as music director of Santa Fe Opera, before making his Metropolitan Opera debut with a production of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic that, when released on DVD, won him his first Grammy Award. His leadership of a new production of Porgy and Bess at La Scala last season scored a five-star review in the Financial Times, and prompted France’s Anaclase to declare: “The great triumphant winner of the evening is Alan Gilbert! His conducting is supple, dancing, tragic, colorful, inventive, lyrical, violent, cheerful, fierce. In a word: alive.”
* * * * *
Gilbert conducted another rarely staged 20th-century Viennese opera in October, when he made his Dresden Semperoper debut with a new production of Schoenberg’s Moses and Aaron. As Seen and Heard International observed:
“It was a performance as colourful as the Op. 16 Five Orchestral Pieces, as ‘dramatic’ as Wagner, as comprehending and communicative of the work’s ebb and flow as an excellent account of Beethoven, and as imbued with the spirit of the dance as Der Rosenkavalier.”
Besides performing and touring with the NRD Elbphilharmonie, fall also saw Gilbert premiere a new work by Péter Eötvös in season-opening concerts with the Staatskapelle Dresden; give his first appearances as Principal Guest Conductor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony; and return to the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra for all-Czech programs, with which he succeeded in “expressing the unspeakable and reaping long, enthusiastic applause from the crowded ranks” (Leipziger Volkszeitung).
For high-resolution photos, click here.
Alan Gilbert: winter/spring engagements
Jan 11-16: Concerts with Vienna Symphony
Jan 11 & 13:
Dvořák: The Golden Spinning Wheel, Op. 109
Dvořák: Piano Concerto in G minor, Op. 33 (with Stephen Hough, piano)
Martinů: Symphony No. 4 (Jan 13 only)
Jan 15 & 16:
Dvořák: Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104 (with Gautier Capuçon, cello)
Dvořák: The Noon Witch, Op. 108
Anna Thorvaldsdottir: Metacosmos (European Premiere)
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2 (with Lisa Batiashvili, violin)
R. Strauss: Sinfonia Domestica
Feb 7 & 9
Haydn: Symphony No. 100 in G, “Military”
Busoni: Piano Concerto (with Garrick Ohlsson, piano)
Feb 17-27: Israeli concerts with Israel Philharmonic (debut)
Anders Hillborg: Exquisite Corpse
Weber: “Oberon” Overture
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 (with Inon Barnatan, pianist)
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2 (with Lisa Batiashvili, violin)
Dvořák: Symphony No. 9, “New World”
Nielsen: Symphony No. 3, “Sinfonia espansiva,” (with Anastasia Klevan, soprano; Oded Reich, baritone)
Feb 17 & 19: Tel Aviv (Hillborg, Rachmaninov, Nielsen)
Feb 21: Tel Aviv (Weber, Rachmaninov, Dvořák)
Feb 23-24: Tel Aviv (Weber, Prokofiev, Nielsen)
Feb 26: Haifa (Weber, Prokofiev, Nielsen)
Feb 27: Tel Aviv (Weber, Prokofiev, Dvořák)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
Choir of Radio France
Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 3 (with Vikingur Olafsson, piano)
Ligeti: Lux Aeterna
Bartók: Music for strings, celesta and percussion
March 30 & 31
Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich
Thomas Adès: Three Studies from Couperin
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58 (with Inon Barnatan, piano)
Nielsen: Symphony No. 3 in D minor, Op. 27, “Sinfonia espansiva” (with Christina Landshamer, soprano; Benjamin Appl, baritone)
April 3 & 4
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Lili Boulanger: Faust et Hélène
May 10, 12 & 13
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
Ligeti: Le Grand Macabre
May 28–June 17
Korngold: Die tote Stadt, Op. 12
# # #
© 21C Media Group, January 2019