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Alan Gilbert Gives First Performances as Chief Conductor Designate of Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie, and Returns to New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, and More This Season

The 2017-18 season marks the start of a compelling new chapter in Alan Gilbert’s already distinguished career. Fresh from concluding a transformative eight-year tenure as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, the Grammy Award-winning conductor returns to helm the orchestra’s 175th birthday celebrations and lead a pair of programs in its Centennial Festival for Leonard Bernstein. He also rejoins both the Cleveland Orchestra and the Boston Symphony, where he and Leila Josefowicz reprise their celebrated account of John Adams’s Scheherazade.2. In Europe, meanwhile, he makes his first appearances as Chief Conductor Designate of Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, makes debuts with the Oslo Philharmonic and Cologne’s WDR Symphony, and returns to the podiums of the Berlin Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de Lyon, Royal Swedish Opera, and Staatskapelle Dresden, which he takes on tour to China.

Gilbert comments:

“The 2017-18 season is a chance for me to continue and develop old friendships and start some new ones. I had a wonderful run at the New York Philharmonic, but it feels just right to be turning the page at this particular time in my life.”

U.S. dates in New York, Boston, and Cleveland

Over the past eight seasons with the New York Philharmonic, Gilbert made “an indelible mark on the orchestra’s history and that of the city itself” (New Yorker). He recalls that legacy this fall, when he reunites with the Philharmonic for three high-profile engagements, two of which pay tribute to another of its eminent former Music Directors, Leonard Bernstein. In the first of two star-studded programs in “Bernstein’s Philharmonic: A Centennial Festival,” Gilbert couples the U.S. premiere of Boundless (Homage to L.B.) by emerging young Dutch composer Joey Roukens with Bernstein’s own Serenade and First Symphony, featuring superstar violinist Joshua Bell and mezzo-soprano Kelly O’Connor, respectively (Oct 25–31). For his second festival appearance, Gilbert directs the orchestra and jazz pianist Makoto Ozone in Bernstein’s Second Symphony, “The Age of Anxiety,” and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, on a program that also showcases Philharmonic principal clarinet Anthony McGill in Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs (Nov 2–4).

Later this fall, Gilbert rejoins the Philharmonic to headline its landmark 175th birthday concert with performances of Weber’s Oberon Overture, Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante for Four Winds, and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (Dec 6–9). The iconic work is one of those with which, in a historic event at the United Nations, he and the orchestra helped bid farewell to departing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and welcome his successor, António Guterres, last year.

Gilbert returns to the States for two important guest engagements next March. At the Boston Symphony Orchestra he conducts a program of Sibelius, Debussy, and John Adams. Having commissioned and premiered the Californian composer’s Scheherazade.2 with the New York Philharmonic, in Boston Gilbert reunites with its dedicatee, violinist Leila Josefowicz, to reprise what the New York Times called “a dazzling and inspired performance, backed by the glittering, rhapsodic and supremely confident playing of the orchestra under Mr. Gilbert” (March 1–3).

Next the conductor returns to the Cleveland Orchestra, where two decades ago he completed a two-year apprenticeship as assistant to Christoph von Dohnányi. Indeed, Gilbert’s rapport with the orchestra remains such that, in their most recent collaboration, he succeeded in “evincing levels of comfort and mutual understanding enjoyed only by the initiated” (Cleveland Plain Dealer). They reunite this season for performances of Barber’s Cello Concerto with MacArthur Award-winner Alisa Weilerstein, bookended by Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony and Carnival Overture (March 15–18).

For his final U.S. engagement of the season, Gilbert makes his annual Lincoln Center appearance with the Juilliard Orchestra, in a program of Barber, Brahms, and Christopher Rouse (April 16). He continues to serve as Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies at the Juilliard School, where he is also the first holder of the William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies, and as the founding president of Musicians for Unity. With the endorsement and guidance of the United Nations, this new organization brings together musicians from around the world to perform music at critical times in support of peace, development, and human rights, celebrating the power of music to build bridges and unite people across borders.

Debuts in Oslo and Cologne; returns to Hamburg, Berlin, Leipzig, Royal Swedish Opera and more

For his first performances as Chief Conductor Designate of Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Gilbert leads two already sold-out accounts of Mahler’s Third Symphony at the Elbphilharmonie, its state-of-the-art new home (April 6 & 7). He previously served for more than a decade as Principal Guest Conductor of the orchestra (then known as the NDR Symphony Orchestra Hamburg), and looks forward to inaugurating his tenure there in the 2019-20 season. When the new appointment was announced this past June, he explained:

“Very little would have tempted me to take on the challenge of a new position so soon. But the perfect confluence of circumstances seems to have come together with the Elbphilharmonie Orchestra. First of all, this is a group of musicians that I already know so well and love dearly. The musicians and I have shared a very special rapport and musical chemistry for many years. Furthermore, the environment surrounding the orchestra is uniquely exciting. The Elbphilharmonie is the perfect and already iconic physical space in which to play and present music, and the management team … is the most inspired, ambitious, and forward-looking in the world of music. How rare it is to find a situation in which it is not only possible to imagine pushing the paradigm of orchestras in the 21st century forward, but one in which all constituent groups are demanding that this progress happen. I’m thrilled to have found such a place.”

Gilbert also returns to a number of the other leading German orchestras with which he has established the most meaningful ties. At the Berlin Philharmonic, whose “musicians have faith in him, letting him unleash his creativity to the fullest” (Berlin Morgenpost), he conducts Mozart, Debussy, and Thomas Adès, whose music he has long championed (April 25–27). It was Gilbert who led the U.S. premiere of the English composer’s opera The Tempest in Santa Fe and under whose auspices the New York Philharmonic commissioned Adès’s Polaris: Voyage for Orchestra. With the Munich Philharmonic, he conducts Elgar’s First Symphony and Sibelius’s Violin Concerto with Lisa Batiashvili, a regular collaborator who was among those he invited to celebrate his 50th birthday in a special New York Philharmonic concert last season (Feb 1–4). He returns to the Staatskapelle Dresden for Strauss and Mozart with piano soloist Yundi, in concerts at the orchestra’s home and on a four-city tour of China (Nov 10–19). And with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, he leads a fully sold-out trio of New Year concerts, including the traditional annual TV broadcast, featuring Beethoven’s mighty Ninth Symphony (Dec 29–31). This was not only one of the works with which their sensational season-opening performances wowed the British and German press three years ago, but was also the vehicle for his final appearance with the New York Philharmonic this past summer, which took place before an audience of 7,000 at Santa Barbara’s Music Academy of the West.

Gilbert also makes debuts with two major European orchestras and returns to two French ones. For his first performances with the WDR Symphony Cologne, he conducts Liadov, Tchaikovsky and Mozart (Dec 15 & 16), and for his Oslo Philharmonic debut, he leads an all-English program pairing Elgar’s First Symphony with Britten’s Piano Concerto, with Leif Ove Andsnes as soloist (Jan 18 & 19). It was four seasons ago that the conductor’s all-Britten concert with the New York Philharmonic proved “a highlight of the Britten year” (New York Times).

In France, Gilbert returns to the Orchestre de Paris for Schumann’s Fourth Symphony, Varèse’s Amériques, and Ravel with pianist Marc-André Hamelin (Oct 11 & 12), and to the Orchestre National de Lyon, where his sister serves as concertmaster, for programs of Bach, Brahms, and Martinů with Argentinean cellist Sol Gabetta, at home and in Aix-en-Provence (Jan 25–27).

Finally, Gilbert returns to the opera house, leading the Royal Swedish Opera in Christof Loy’s celebrated take on Der Rosenkavalier, which stars Malin Byström (May 26–June 10). Already a major player on the opera scene, the conductor was the first appointed 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, scored Gilbert his first Grammy Award. His leadership of George Benjamin’s Written on Skin at the Mostly Mozart Festival was chosen as one of the best of 2015 by both New York and the New York Times, which praised the “surging and nuanced performance” he drew from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Last fall, his leadership of a new production of Porgy and Bess at Milan’s La Scala scored a five-star review in the Financial Times, which marveled: “Has La Scala ever witnessed a conductor having so much fun?

Triumphant conclusion of New York tenure

The first native New Yorker to serve as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, Gilbert succeeded in transforming the orchestra, already one of the nation’s most venerable arts institutions, into a leader on the cultural landscape. It was he who created the positions of Composer-in-Residence, Artist-in-Residence, and Artist-in-Association; who programmed and led innovatively staged productions of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre, Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen, Stravinsky’s Petrushka, and Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake that scored full houses and made multiple year-end top-ten lists; and who 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). “A Concert for Unity,” his final subscription performances at David Geffen Hall, featured the Philharmonic playing alongside 22 international musicians from orchestras in Australia, Brazil, China, Cuba, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Turkey, Venezuela, the United Kingdom, and the United States. As Alex Ross noted in the New Yorker, “the Gilbert era is likely to be remembered as the Philharmonic’s liveliest period since the Pierre Boulez experiment of the seventies.” Ross stressed, however, that this achievement should not be allowed to overshadow the conductor’s extraordinary interpretive powers; the account of Mahler’s formidable Seventh Symphony with which he concluded his New York tenure struck the New Yorker critic as “better than [that of] any other conductor I’ve heard.” Indeed, after the New York Philharmonic performance, “the final applause might have gone on longer had Gilbert not appeared onstage holding a bottle of beer, signaling that his service in the job was done.” Click here to read the article in full.

For high-resolution photos, click here.

Alan Gilbert: 2017-18 season

Oct 11 & 12

Paris, France

Orchestre de Paris

Schumann: Symphony No. 4

Ravel: Piano Concerto for the Left Hand (with Marc-André Hamelin, piano)

Varèse: Amériques

Oct 25, 26, 27, 28 & 31

New York, NY

New York Philharmonic

Joey Roukens: Boundless (Homage to L.B.) (U.S. premiere)

Bernstein: Serenade (with Joshua Bell, violin)

Bernstein: Symphony No. 1 (with Kelly O’Connor, mezzo-soprano)

Nov 2–4

New York, NY

New York Philharmonic

Bernstein: Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs (with Anthony McGill, clarinet)

Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (with Makoto Ozone, piano)

Bernstein: Symphony No. 2

Nov 10–19: concerts at home and on Chinese tour with Dresden Staatskapelle

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, K. 488 (with Yundi, piano)

Strauss: Sinfonia domestica

Nov 10–12: Dresden, Germany

Nov 15: Shanghai, China

Nov 16: Hangzhou, China

Nov 17: Wuhan, China

Nov 19: Peking, China

Dec 6–9

New York, NY

New York Philharmonic: 175th Birthday Concert

Weber: Oberon Overture

Mozart: Sinfonia concertante for Four Winds (with Liang Wang, oboe; Anthony McGill, clarinet; Judith LeClair, bassoon; Richard Deane, horn)

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5

Dec 15 & 16

Cologne, Germany

WDR Symphony Cologne (debut)

Anatoly Liadov: The Enchanted Lake, Op. 62

Mozart: Piano Concerto in D minor, K. 466 (with Rudolf Buchbinder, piano)

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4

Dec 29–31

Leipzig, Germany

Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9

Jan 18 & 19

Oslo, Norway

Oslo Philharmonic (debut)

Britten: Piano Concerto (with Leif Ove Andsnes, piano)

Elgar: Symphony No. 1

Jan 25 & 27

Lyon, France

Orchestre National de Lyon

Brahms: Symphony No. 3

Martinů: Cello Concerto No. 1 (with Sol Gabetta, cello)

Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 3

Jan 26

Aix-en-Provence, France

Orchestre National de Lyon

Brahms: Symphony No. 3

Martinů: Cello Concerto No. 1 (with Sol Gabetta, cello)

Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 3

Feb 1, 2 & 4

Munich, Germany

Munich Philharmonic

Sibelius: Violin Concerto (with Lisa Batiashvili, violin)

Elgar: Symphony No. 1

March 1–3

Boston, MA

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Sibelius: En saga

Debussy: Jeux

John Adams: Scheherazade.2 for violin and orchestra (with Leila Josefowicz, violin)
March 15–18

Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland Orchestra

Dvořák: Carnival Overture

Barber: Cello Concerto (with Alisa Weilerstein, cello)

Dvořák: Symphony No. 8

April 6 & 7

Hamburg, Germany

NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester

(With Women of the NDR Chorus; Women of the Bavarian Radio Chorus; Hannover Boys Choir; Gerhild Romberger, contralto)

Mahler: Symphony No. 3

April 16

New York, NY

Juilliard Orchestra

Barber: Essay No. 1

Christopher Rouse: Flute Concerto (flute soloist TBA)

Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C minor

April 25–­27

Berlin, Germany

Berlin Philharmonic

Thomas Adès: Three Studies from Couperin

Mozart: Clarinet Concerto (with Wenzel Fuchs, clarinet)

Debussy: Images

May 26–June 10

Stockholm, Sweden

Royal Swedish Opera

  1. Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier

Director: Christof Loy

Marie Thérèse: Malin Byström, soprano

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© 21C Media Group, October 2017

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