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Alan Gilbert Continues Farewell Season with New York Philharmonic, Leading World Premieres by Wynton Marsalis and HK Gruber This Winter

After a series of fall guest conducting engagements with three of Europe’s most iconic musical institutions – the Berlin Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and La Scala – Alan Gilbert returns home to continue his farewell season with the New York Philharmonic. He leads the world premieres of new commissions from Pulitzer Prize-winner Wynton Marsalis (Dec 28–Jan 3) and Austria’s HK Gruber, whose new piano concerto features Avery Fisher Prize-winner Emanuel Ax (Jan 5–7); joins MacArthur fellow Stephen Hough for a pairing of Beethoven and Brahms (Jan 11–14); and celebrates the holiday season with Handel’s Messiah (Dec 13–17) and a New Year’s Eve program of American classics with Grammy Award-winning mezzo Joyce DiDonato and Tony-winning baritone Paulo Szot (Dec 31), nationally telecast on Live From Lincoln Center.

Gilbert is now in his eighth and final season as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, where a sincere commitment to contemporary composition has been one of the defining hallmarks of his tenure; indeed, their recording of symphonic works by former Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence Christopher Rouse has just received a Grammy nomination and been named one of the “Best 50 Albums of 2016” by NPR Music. As the Philharmonic celebrates its 175th anniversary this season, Gilbert also conducts the first of The New York Commissions, a series of world premieres of New York–themed works by New York–based composers with ties to the orchestra. He and the Philharmonic are joined by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis in the world premiere of The Jungle (Symphony No. 4) by the great trumpeter himself. Gilbert explains:

“I’ve always tried to make the New York Philharmonic not just an orchestra that happens to be in New York, but an orchestra of New York that is New York’s orchestra in a very meaningful way.”

The premiere results from a cross-campus collaboration between the Philharmonic and fellow Lincoln Center constituent Jazz at Lincoln Center, where Marsalis serves as artistic and managing director. Gilbert adds:

“One thing I’ve been interested in pursuing with the Philharmonic is collaboration with important cultural institutions across New York City. Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis was an obvious choice. Wynton is such an iconic figure: a great artist, instrumentalist, teacher, and communicator who really believes in the power of music and the importance of bringing people into our world.”

Of his new concerto, Marsalis writes:

“New York City is the most fluid, pressure-packed, and cosmopolitan metropolis the modern world has ever seen. The dense mosaic of all kinds of people everywhere doing all kinds of things encourages you to ‘stay in your lane,’ but the speed, freedom, and intensity of our relationships to each other – and to the city itself – forces us onto a collective super highway unlike any other in our country.”

It was Gilbert who led the American premiere of Marsalis’s Swing Symphony (Symphony No. 3) – a Philharmonic co-commission – to launch the orchestra’s 2010-11 season, when he impressed the New York Times with the way he “seemed totally in his element, conducting with a mix of cool command and jazzy swing.” Now Marsalis’s new symphony shares the program with another piece by an American about New York City – Copland’s Quiet City – together with William Bolcom’s Trombone Concerto. This showcases Philharmonic principal trombone Joseph Alessi, with whom Gilbert and the orchestra gave the concerto its “electrifying” (New York Times) world premiere performance this past summer.

Gilbert was also “in his element” (New York magazine) when he took the podium for HK Gruber’s comic opera Gloria – A Pig Tale, which was, as staged under his leadership by Giants Are Small, a highlight of the inaugural NY PHIL BIENNIAL. Now he conducts the orchestra’s world premiere performances of the Austrian composer’s Piano Concerto, a Philharmonic co-commission, with pianist Emanuel Ax, who is a former Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence and honorary member of the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York. According to the composer:

“Just knowing that you are writing for Emanuel Ax is inspiration enough for a composer’s life. To know that the New York Philharmonic, led by Alan Gilbert, will perform this commission makes me indescribably lucky.”

Described by Gruber as evoking cabaret music, the new concerto forms the centerpiece of an Austro-German program bookended by Weill’s Threepenny Music for Wind Orchestra, which draws on the 1920s Berlin cabaret scene, and Schubert’s Second Symphony.

Other highlights of the conductor’s winter at the Philharmonic further illustrate the breadth of programming that has consistently characterized his directorship. Key concerts include seasonal performances of Handel’s Messiah – in which his “decisive phrasing, generally brisk pacing and insistence on crystalline textures” previously impressed the New York Times as “magical” – with stellar vocal soloists Christina Landshamer, Sasha Cooke, Matthew Polenzani, and John Relyea, along with the Concert Chorale of New York.

Gilbert and the orchestra also look forward to ringing in the New Year with an “Enchanted Evening” of favorites by Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe, and others in company with Joyce DiDonato and Paulo Szot. The star mezzo previously accompanied them on their EUROPE / SPRING 2015 tour, crowned by a residency at London’s Barbican, where their collaboration inspired a five-star review in The Telegraph and prompted The Arts Desk to name her “the perfect partner for this orchestra.”

To round out the winter season, Gilbert leads a pairing of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto and Brahms’s Third Symphony – repertoire in which the New York Times finds him “consistently involving and insightful” – with piano soloist Stephen Hough. The rapport between conductor and soloist was evident when they collaborated earlier this year at the Cleveland Orchestra, where they succeeded in turning Dvorák’s little-known Piano Concerto into “an absorbing, expressive conversation” (Cleveland Plain-Dealer).

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These five programs with the Philharmonic follow Gilbert’s recent sojourn in Europe, where he revisited the podiums of the Berlin Philharmonic and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, two of the German orchestras with which he has established the most meaningful ties, and helmed a new production of Porgy and Bess at La Scala that marked the first time Gershwin’s original score had been heard complete at the Milan house. In a five-star review, the Financial Times wrote:

“Alan Gilbert pulled the tempo around indulgently, beaming from ear to ear. Has La Scala ever witnessed a conductor having so much fun?”

For high-resolution photos, click here.

Alan Gilbert: upcoming engagements with the New York Philharmonic

Dec 13, 14, 15, 16 & 17
Handel: Messiah (with Christina Landshamer, soprano; Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano; Matthew Polenzani, tenor; John Relyea, bass-baritone; Concert Chorale of New York)

Dec 28, 29, & 30; Jan 3
Copland: Quiet City (with Christopher Martin, trumpet; Grace Shryock, English horn)
William Bolcom: Trombone Concerto (New York Philharmonic co-commission; with Joseph Alessi, trombone)
Wynton Marsalis: The Jungle (Symphony No. 4) (world premiere of New York Philharmonic commission; with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis)

Dec 31
New Year’s Eve Concert (with Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano; Paulo Szot, baritone)
Copland: Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo
Copland: selections from Old American Songs
Rodgers & Hammerstein: “Billy’s Soliloquy” from Carousel

  • Strauss II: On the Beautiful Blue Danube

Rodgers & Hammerstein: selections from The Sound of Music
Lerner & Loewe: selections from My Fair Lady
Rodgers: Carousel Waltz

Jan 5, 6 & 7
Weill: Little Threepenny Music for Wind Orchestra
HK Gruber: Piano Concerto (world premiere of New York Philharmonic co-commission; with Emanuel Ax, piano)
Schubert: Symphony No. 2

Jan 11, 12, 13 & 14
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor” (with Stephen Hough, piano)
Brahms: Symphony No. 3

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© 21C Media Group, December 2016

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