Press Room

Alan Gilbert: April 2011 highlights

New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert begins the month of April guest conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in a program covering Berg’s Seven Early Songs with mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat major (K. 482) with pianist Emanuel Ax, and Stravinsky’s complete Firebird ballet (April 1-3).  Gilbert returns to his home city to give the New York Philharmonic’s annual Erich Leinsdorf Lecture (April 4), which will be webcast live from the Walter Reade Theater on the orchestra’s web site (  The subject of the lecture, entitled “Performance and Interpretation,” will be whether there is such a thing as a perfect interpretation.  Next up is a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 with the Juilliard Orchestra (April 15).  Gilbert closes out the month back on the podium with the New York Philharmonic, leading the orchestra in a program that presents Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 and Messiaen’s Couleurs de la Cité céleste with Emanuel Ax (April 28-30). 
Gilbert, an alumnus of Juilliard, previously led the Juilliard Orchestra last April in a wide-ranging program at Alice Tully Hall, with music by Mozart, Beethoven, Schoenberg, and Ligeti.  Gilbert conducted and recorded Mahler’s valedictory Symphony No. 9 in his final concerts as Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic in June 2008.  Gramophone named the album, released on the BIS label, an Editor’s Choice selection, noting, “This must, I think, be the finest recording the work has received.  … It is as exhausting and purifying an experience as any 80 minutes spent in your listening room has the right to be.”  Gilbert’s performance of the work with the Juilliard Orchestra will take place at Avery Fisher Hall.  He was recently appointed Juilliard’s Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies, beginning in fall 2011, and is the first holder of Juilliard’s William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies, appointed in 2009.
Gilbert’s most recent engagement with the New York Philharmonic was an unscheduled performance of Toru Takemitsu’s Requiem for String Orchestra, which he conducted before a scheduled concert led by Esa-Pekka Salonen.  Following a spoken introduction by Gilbert and Salonen, the Takemitsu performance was given “as an expression of support and admiration for the Japanese people.”  A recording of the performance is now available for download through InstantEncore and other online music stores, with proceeds going to benefit relief efforts in Japan.  The recording can be purchased and videos of the performance and of a message from Gilbert and Philharmonic violinist Fiona Simon can be seen at
Alan Gilbert discusses his upcoming engagements in the brief Q & A below.
A Conversation with Alan Gilbert 

This evening [March 17], you dedicated the next three New York Philharmonic concerts to the people of Japan and conducted Takemitsu’s Requiem for String Orchestra before Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted the scheduled concert.  What was going through your mind as you heard the orchestra playing that music?
Many times in recent days I’ve heard people say that words can’t express what they are feeling in the face of such calamity in Japan.  To be honest, I was thinking about making the best performance of the piece.  But it did occur to me that music can express our deepest feelings when words don’t suffice.
You’ll also conduct a benefit concert for the people of Japan in Germany.
I was very moved when the musicians of Hamburg’s NDR Symphony approached me about doing a benefit concert for the situation in Japan.  We have planned an event for which the musicians and I will all donate our services.  It is scheduled for Sunday, March 27, following a performance we give at eleven that morning.  The program will consist of the Takemitsu Requiem and Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony.     
When you return to New York following your performances with the Berlin Philharmonic, you will give the annual Erich Leinsdorf Lecture, addressing the subject of interpretation.  Can you give us a preview of what you’ll speak about?
I’m interested in the nature of interpretation and how it is connected to the nature of meaning in art.  One of the inspirations that have fueled my artistic life is the question of whether there is such a thing as absolute meaning in music and in art.  This begs the question, is there such a thing as a perfect interpretation?  Obviously, in practical terms, the answer is no.  But I’m hoping to explore the possibility that in some magical, ideal world the answer might be yes. 
Is it typical for a music director to give this lecture?
As far as I know, I’m the first music director to do so, but there have been many conductors who have spoken in this series, on a huge range of subjects.  I’ve been fortunate to kick ideas around with Dr. Randall Butler, a player in our bass section.  Randy has a Ph.D. in philosophy and has been enormously helpful and more than generous helping me streamline and formulate my ideas. 
In April, you return to conducting the Juilliard Orchestra.  How do you prepare a young group of musicians for the emotional and musical enormity of Mahler 9?
We’ve made a yearlong project out of this concert.  I led rehearsals in the fall, and many people have been contributing to the process.  Musicians from the Philharmonic have been participating in sectional work with the students, and the New York Philharmonic’s Assistant Conductor, Daniel Boico, has done preparatory work.  The last rehearsal I conducted, two weeks ago, came between two European engagements, and I flew back just so that I could work with the students.  It was more than encouraging: I was amazed at the jump in cognition and understanding of the work, and I’m very much looking forward to what I expect to be a powerful performance.
Was there special non-musical preparation for this concert?
I’ve encouraged the students to study Mahler and learn about his life, about his philosophical and psychological condition.  This is a symphony that is all about life, both its ups and downs, and the more one understands of Mahler’s experience, the more one can bring to the piece.
Alan Gilbert: upcoming engagements
March 24, 25, and 27
NDR Symphony Orchestra (Hamburg)
Hamburg, Germany (March 24, 8 p.m.; March 27, 11 a.m.)
Lübeck, Germany (March 25)
   Magnus Lindberg: Al largo (German premiere)
   Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor (with Lisa Batiashvili, violin)
   Dvořák: Symphony No. 6 in D major
March 27
NDR Symphony Orchestra (Hamburg)
Afternoon benefit concert for the people of Japan
   Takemitsu: Requiem for String Orchestra
   Schubert: “Unfinished” Symphony No. 8
April 1, 2, and 3
Berlin Philharmonic
Berlin, Germany
   Berg: Seven Early Songs (with mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn)
   Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat major (K. 482) (with Emanuel Ax, piano)
   Igor Stravinsky: The Firebird (complete ballet)
April 4 at 6:30 PM
New York, NY
Walter Reade Theater
Annual Erich Leinsdorf Lecture
Live webcast available at the New York Philharmonic web site (
April 11
New York, NY
Avery Fisher Hall
New York Philharmonic
Special guest:  Itzhak Perlman, violin
Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Schubert, Kreisler and music from the movies
One night only for the benefit of the Philharmonic Pension Fund
April 15
New York, NY
Avery Fisher Hall
Juilliard Orchestra
Mahler: Symphony No. 9
April 27
New York, NY
Avery Fisher Hall
New York Philharmonic
Mahler: Symphony No. 5 (Rush Hour Concert)
April 28-30
New York, NY
Avery Fisher Hall
New York Philharmonic
Debussy : Estampes, for solo piano (Emanuel Ax, piano)
Messiaen: Couleurs de la Cité céleste (with Emanuel Ax, piano)
Mahler: Symphony No. 5
May 4, 6, & 7
New York, NY
Avery Fisher Hall
New York Philharmonic
Bartók: Violin Concerto No. 2 (with Lisa Batiashvili, violin)
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 “Eroica”
May 5
New York, NY
Carnegie Hall
New York Philharmonic: Carnegie Hall’s 120th Anniversary Concert
   Dvořák: Carnival Overture
   Beethoven: “Triple” Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano in C major
      (with Gil Shaham, violin; Yo-Yo Ma, cello; Emanuel Ax, piano)
   Ellington: Songs (with Audra McDonald, soprano)
   Gershwin: An American in Paris
May 12-24
Spring 2011 European tour with the New York Philharmonic
   Basel, Switzerland (May 12)
   Baden-Baden, Germany (May 13)
   Munich, Germany (May 14)
   Vienna, Austria (May 15 & 17)
   Budapest, Hungary (May 18)
   Berlin, Germany (May 19)
   Dresden, Germany (May 21 & 22)
   Leipzig, Germany (May 23)
   Prague, Czech Republic (May 24)
May 30
New York, NY
New York Philharmonic
Free Annual Memorial Day Concert at Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine
Barber: Adagio for Strings
Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 “Eroica”
June 2-4
New York, NY
Avery Fisher Hall
New York Philharmonic
Beethoven: Romance for Violin and Orchestra No. 2 in F major
Sebastian Currier: Time Machines (world premiere, with Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin)
Bruckner: Symphony No. 2
June 22-25
New York, NY
Avery Fisher Hall
New York Philharmonic
Janáček: The Cunning Little Vixen
Fully-staged production directed and designed by Doug Fitch
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