Press Room

Alan Gilbert Continues NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra Season with Hamburg Festival, European Tour & More; Returns to Berlin Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra & Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra; & Leads Royal Swedish Opera’s Parsifal

(December 2023) — As Chief Conductor of Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Alan Gilbert “got off to a dream start to the new season” (Die Welt, Germany). Over the coming months, he leads the orchestra in all-Bartók programs to bookend “Kosmos Bartók,” the ensemble’s weeklong celebration of the Hungarian composer’s music (Feb 2–10); on tour in Germany and Spain (Feb 13–18); and at the “War and Peace”-themed 2024 Hamburg International Music Festival, which they open with a program of Schoenberg, Weill and Ives (April 26 & 27), before presenting a pairing of Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (May 3 & 5). To complete his concert lineup, Gilbert performs the same Beethoven work with Japan’s Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony (Dec 24–26), undertakes a two-program residency with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (Jan 11–19) and joins the Berlin Philharmonic for performances of Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake (June 6–8), the last of which will – like almost all his winter and spring NDR programs – stream live to audiences worldwide. Recognized with a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording, Gilbert also serves as Music Director of the Royal Swedish Opera, where he leads the company’s spring production of Parsifal (March 16–April 18).

Bartók festival & European tour with NDR (Feb 2–18)

Béla Bartók is one of the great 20th-century innovators to whose music Gilbert regularly returns. During his transformative, eight-season tenure as the New York Philharmonic’s Music Director, when he led that group’s performance of the composer’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta at London’s Barbican Centre, The Times applauded the way “this most ebullient of orchestras responded like the rampant tiger of old.” Similarly, on his recording of Bartók’s violin concertos with Frank Peter Zimmermann and the Berlin Philharmonic, Gilbert creates such “a palpable sense of devoted rapport,” that “the results are hard to resist” (BBC Music magazine).

Now Gilbert celebrates the Hungarian composer’s music with “Kosmos Bartók,” a dedicated eight-day festival with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra (Feb 2–10). Their partner for the project is pianist Igor Levit, Gramophone’s “Artist of the Year 2020,” who joins them for selected Bartók concertos alongside the composer’s Divertimenti and Concerto for Orchestra (Feb 2 & 4; livestream Feb 2). They conclude the festival with a program coupling Levit’s reading of Bartók’s Third Piano Concerto with concert performances of his Bluebeard’s Castle. Under Gilbert’s leadership, this chilling one-act opera will feature two Grammy-winning vocalists: bass-baritone Gerald Finley as the eponymous Duke and mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung as his ill-fated wife, Judith (Feb 9 & 10; livestream Feb 10).

Having already toured to Switzerland, Hungary, Croatia and Japan this fall, Gilbert and the NDR then embark on a four-city tour of Spain and Germany. At concerts in Madrid, Oviedo, Düsseldorf and Hannover, they reunite with Levit for a reprise of Bartók’s Third Piano Concerto, followed by Gilbert’s interpretation of Brahms’s First Symphony (Feb 13–18). The great Romantic composer was a native of Hamburg, and it was with his First Symphony that the conductor inaugurated his NDR tenure, drawing a five-star review from Classical Source. Likewise, when he and the orchestra undertook the composer’s Second as part of a complete Brahms symphonic cycle, Die Welt marveled: “In Gilbert’s reading, Brahms’s symphony was awakened to full, almost tangible bloom. One could luxuriate in this beguiling hearing.”

Hamburg International Music Festival with NDR (April 26–May 5)

The annual Hamburg International Music Festival brings together some of the world’s leading artists and orchestras in one of its greatest musical cities. All too topically, the theme of the 2024 edition is “War and Peace.” In keeping with this, Gilbert has chosen to open the festival with Friede auf Erden (“Peace on Earth”) by Schoenberg, whose 150th anniversary falls next year. Performed by the Prague Philharmonic Choir, the a cappella choral work will share the Opening Night program with Ives’s Fourth Symphony and Four Walt Whitman Songs, Weill’s post-Pearl Harbor setting of four of Whitman’s Civil War poems, for which Gilbert and the NDR will be joined by Grammy-winning American baritone Thomas Hampson (April 26 & 27). The conductor’s live recording of Ives’s symphony came fourth on Rhapsody’s list of the “Top 25 Classical Albums of 2013,” prompting Seth Colter Walls to write: “[It] still gives me chills. This is one of the finest Ives recordings in recent memory.”

For their second appearance at the Hamburg festival, Gilbert and the NDR turn once again to Schoenberg, opening their program with A Survivor from Warsaw. Written in 1947, two years after the close of World War II and four before the composer’s death, the cantata pays tribute to victims of the Holocaust. The NDR’s performance will feature narration by French-German actor Dominique Horwitz and a men’s chorus drawn from the Berlin Radio Choir. Together with a stellar quartet of vocal soloists – soprano Susanna Phillips, contralto Gerhild Romberger, tenor Maximilian Schmitt and bass John Lundgren – the full choir will then join the conductor and orchestra for the message of solidarity and hope offered by Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (May 3 & 5; livestream May 3). Gilbert’s way with the work has already won praise; in a rendition at London’s BBC Proms, he and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra “found Beethoven’s fire, with clear and controlled playing in the earlier movements giving way to an explosive choral finale” (The Guardian).

Returns to Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, Leipzig Gewandhaus & Berlin Philharmonic

Before his performances of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony in Hamburg, Gilbert conducts the same work in holiday concerts with Japan’s Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, featuring vocal soloists Christina Nilsson, Rinat Shaham, Michael Weinius and Morris Robinson with Tokyo’s New National Theatre Chorus (Dec 24–26). The conductor has served as Principal Guest Conductor of the Japanese orchestra since 2018.

Early next year, Gilbert returns to the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra for a two-program residency. This opens with Lera Auerbach’s Sixth Symphony, “Vessels of Light,” a work dedicated to Chiune Sugihara, the late Japanese vice-consul who helped six thousand Jews escape Nazi-occupied Lithuania. Timed to anticipate Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, performances of the symphony will feature the Leipzig Gewandhaus Choir and cello soloist Kristina Reiko Cooper, whose in-laws are among the descendants of those same escapees. To complete the program, Gilbert and the orchestra pair Auerbach’s work with Shostakovich’s searing Tenth Symphony, of which the conductor’s interpretation impressed the New York Times as “wrenching, blazing and vehement” (Jan 11 & 14). He and the Gewandhaus Orchestra also juxtapose Shostakovich’s symphony with Beethoven’s Eighth (Jan 12), before concluding the residency with a coupling of Bruckner’s Third with the world premiere of Bernd Franke’s piano concerto, Genesis, featuring Michael Wollny as soloist (Jan 18 & 19).

Another of the German orchestras with which Gilbert enjoys a close rapport is the Berlin Philharmonic, whose “musicians have faith in him, letting him unleash his creativity to the fullest” (Berlin Morgenpost). Next June, he returns to the orchestra for three performances of Honegger’s dramatic oratorio Joan of Arc at the Stake, the last of which will be livestreamed. Both the story of a woman looking back on her life as she stands trial, and a parable about corruption and the abuse of power, at its Berlin presentation the oratorio will feature the voices of the MDR Radio Choir and Vokalhelden Children’s Choir in French director Côme de Bellescize’s celebrated staging (June 6–8; livestream June 8). It was in the same production, with the New York Philharmonic and Academy Award-winner Marion Cotillard in the non-singing title role, that Gilbert championed the work in 2015, when it was chosen as one of the year’s ten best classical performances by New York magazine. The New York Times praised the conductor’s “clear artistic and intellectual mission,” observing: “Under Mr. Gilbert, the Philharmonic played with glowing sound and rhythmic bite. The performance found a just balance between richness and restraint.”

Parsifal at the Royal Swedish Opera (March 16–April 18)

Appointed last year as Royal Court Kapellmeister by the King of Sweden, Gilbert has been Music Director of the Royal Swedish Opera since spring 2021. This spring, he returns to the Stockholm house to lead Parsifal, Wagner’s final opera. Directed by International Opera Award-winner Christof Loy, the six-performance run will star Joachim Bäckström – “a tenor of fabulously virile elegance” (Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany) – in the title role, with baritone Peter Mattei, Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year 2020, as Amfortas, and the “absolutely outstanding” mezzo-soprano Miriam Treichl (Seen and Heard International) as Kundry (March 16, 23, 29; April 1, 13 & 18).

A major player on the opera scene, Gilbert has helmed productions at legendary houses worldwide, including Milan’s La Scala, where he conducted a new production of Porgy and Bess and the company premiere of Die tote Stadt, and New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where his account of Doctor Atomic was filmed, released on DVD and recognized with a Grammy Award. Of his semi-staged performance of Das Rheingold with the New York Philharmonic, OperaWire declared: “It was breathtaking musicianship that truly evoked all the colors that Wagner wanted for his music.”

Season-opening success with the NDR

These winter and spring engagements follow a full fall for the conductor. He launched his fifth NDR season with an opening night program combining Dutilleux’s Métaboles and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring with the world premiere of The Elements – a five-part concerto collaboratively composed by Jake Heggie, Jennifer Higdon, Edgar Meyer, Jessie Montgomery and Kevin Puts – with its dedicatee, violinist Joshua Bell, as soloist. According to Germany’s NDR Kultur radio station, the performance represented “a strong start to the new season,” thanks to Gilbert and the NDR’s ability to “make music precisely and with primal power.” As the station put it: “They ignite an intoxicating energy.” German daily Die Welt affirmed:

“The NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra got off to a dream start in the new season with an excitingly curated program. Chief Conductor Alan Gilbert went to work in the Elbphilharmonie’s great hall, fully energized after his summer holiday, and the orchestra was also in the best of moods. This made for a rocketing start.”

Gilbert went on to lead the NDR on two international tours, reuniting with Bell for Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto alongside Mahler’s Fifth Symphony in five European cities, before embarking on a six-city Japanese tour with an all-Brahms program featuring pianist Kyohei Sorita.

Click here for high-resolution photos. Conducts

Alan Gilbert: upcoming engagements
Dec 24–26
Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra

Dec 24: Sumida Triphony Hall

Dec 25: Tokyo Bunka Kaikan

Dec 26: Suntory Hall
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9, “Choral” (with Christina Nilsson, soprano; Rinat Shaham, mezzo-soprano; Michael Weinius, tenor; Morris Robinson, bass; New National Theatre Chorus)

Jan 11 & 14
Leipzig, Germany
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Lera AUERBACH: Symphony No. 6, “Vessels of Light” (with Kristina Reiko Cooper, cello; Leipzig Gewandhaus Choir)
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 10

Jan 12
Leipzig, Germany
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 8
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 10

Jan 18 & 19
Leipzig, Germany
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Bernd FRANKE: Genesis: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (world premiere; with Michael Wollny, piano)
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 3 (1889 version)

Feb 2–10
Hamburg, Germany
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
NDR festival: “Kosmos Bartók”

Feb 2 & 4 (plus livestream on Feb 2)
BARTÓK: Divertimento
BARTÓK: Piano Concerto TBA (with Igor Levit, piano)
BARTÓK: Concerto for Orchestra

Feb 9 & 10 (plus livestream on Feb 10)
BARTÓK: Piano Concerto No. 3 (with Igor Levit, piano)
BARTÓK: Bluebeard’s Castle (with Michelle DeYoung, mezzo; Gerald Finley, bass-baritone)

Feb 13–18: tour of Spain and Germany with NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra

Feb 13: Madrid, Spain

Feb 15: Oviedo, Spain

Feb 17: Düsseldorf, Germany

Feb 18: Hannover, Germany
BARTÓK: Piano Concerto No. 3 (with Igor Levit, piano)
BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1

March 16, 23, 29; April 1, 13 & 18
Stockholm, Sweden
Royal Swedish Opera
WAGNER: Parsifal

April 26–May 5
Hamburg, Germany
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra

2024 Hamburg International Music Festival, “War and Peace”
April 26 & 27: Opening Concert
SCHOENBERG: Friede auf Erden (“Peace on Earth”) (Prague Philharmonic Choir)
WEILL: Four Walt Whitman Songs (with Thomas Hampson, baritone)
IVES: Symphony No. 4

May 3 & 5 (plus livestream on May 3)
SCHOENBERG: A Survivor from Warsaw (with Dominique Horwitz, narrator; male members of Berlin Radio Choir)
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9, “Choral” (with Susanna Phillips, soprano; Gerhild Romberger, contralto; Maximilian Schmitt, tenor; John Lundgren, bass; Berlin Radio Choir)

June 6–8
Berlin, Germany (plus livestream on June 8)
Berlin Philharmonic
HONEGGER: Joan of Arc at the Stake (“Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher)

# # #

© 21C Media Group, December 2023


Return to Press Room