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Alan Gilbert Heads Back on Road This Summer, with Returns to Tanglewood, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony

Alan Gilbert (photo: Yanan Li)

As Chief Conductor of Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra and Music Director Designate of the Royal Swedish Opera, Alan Gilbert has remained in Europe throughout the pandemic. That changes this summer, however, when his recovery from COVID coincides with the return of live music to festivals and concert halls around the world. To celebrate this fresh new start, the Grammy-winning conductor resumes his international career with a return to Japan’s Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, where he serves as Principal Guest Conductor (June 26 & July 1), and residencies at two major U.S. festivals. At Tanglewood, he leads both the Boston Symphony and Tanglewood Music Center orchestras (Aug 1 & 2), and at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, he plays violin in a pair of chamber programs and conducts works for chamber orchestra by Takemitsu and Stravinsky (July 18–26).

Reflecting on the current post-pandemic moment and what it means for the classical world, Gilbert explains:

“Coming back to making music this week with my beloved Elbphilharmonie Orchestra has been particularly meaningful. Being away from this has really reinforced my belief in the importance and power of music – the arts were profoundly affected.”

Leading BSO and TMCO at Tanglewood (Aug 1 & 2)

Gilbert’s long association with Tanglewood dates back to his student days, when he conducted there for Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa. More recently his leadership of the Boston Symphony has been described as “revelatory,” thanks to “his thoughtful musicianship and fresh approaches to programming” (Boston Globe). Now he returns to the orchestra’s summer home for two programs, both featuring music by Scandinavian composers whose music, as Conductor Laureate of Sweden’s Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, he consistently champions. On August 1, he leads the Boston Symphony in a performance of Wilhelm Stenhammar’s Serenade in F, one of the works with which Gilbert made his New York Philharmonic debut two decades ago, some years before his transformative tenure as its Music Director. The Swedish Romantic’s Serenade shares the program with the Overture to Schumann’s Bride of Messina and Saint-Saëns’s Third Violin Concerto, with Stefan Jackiw, “one of the most insightful violinists of his generation” (Boston Globe), as soloist.

The following day (Aug 2), Gilbert leads the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in an account of Sibelius’s Third Symphony, which eschews the grand Romanticism of its predecessors for an almost Classical economy of gesture. Five years ago, when commemorating the Finnish composer’s 150th anniversary with the leading orchestras of three continents, Gilbert said: “I think his music says something very true about all humanity.” The conductor also oversees student-led performances of Fauré’s ethereal Pelléas et Mélisande Suite and Darker America, a landmark symphonic suite by William Grant Still, the first African-American composer to have a symphony performed by a major U.S. orchestra.

Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival (July 18–26)

Gilbert is a firm and longtime favorite at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, where he has served as Artist-in-Residence for an unprecedented three seasons. This year, he makes his first post-pandemic U.S. appearances with four programs at the New Mexico festival. With a chamber orchestra of festival musicians, he conducts both Rain Coming by Takemitsu (July 21), whose Requiem for String Orchestra he recorded ten years ago with the New York Philharmonic, and Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks” Concerto (July 24), a Baroque pastiche by the Russian composer in whose music Gilbert’s leadership has been called “white-hot” (New York Times).

Throughout his career, the conductor’s love of chamber music has regularly seen him exchange his baton for a bow, and he plays violin in a pair of chamber programs while at Santa Fe. With CarlaMaria Rodrigues on viola, Peter Stumpf on cello and Benjamin Hochman on piano, he takes part in Schumann’s lyrical Piano Quartet in E-flat (July 18 & 19), before joining horn player Stefan Dohr and pianist Gilles Vonsattel for Ligeti’s Horn Trio, “Hommage à Brahms (July 25 & 26).

Alan Gilbert at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival (photo: courtesy of SFCMF)

Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony (June 26 & July 1)

Given his mother’s Japanese heritage, Gilbert’s relationship with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra is of special significance to him. He launches the summer season there with an all-American program that opens with the Overture to Candide by Bernstein, one of his predecessors as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. Next follow Copland’s Appalachian Spring and the Second Symphony by Ives (June 26). Gilbert’s live recording with the New York Philharmonic of the great American experimentalist’s Fourth Symphony came fourth on Rhapsody’s list of the Top 25 Classical Albums of 2013, prompting Seth Colter Walls to write:

“The New York Philharmonic’s live recording of Charles Ives’ Fourth Symphony still gives me chills. This is one of the finest Ives recordings in recent memory.”

For his second program with the Japanese orchestra, Gilbert revisits Pettersson’s Seventh Symphony, a work he describes as possessing “a kind of spiritual searching, a feeling of mankind’s insignificance in the greater scheme of things,” but one that is “ultimately not pessimistic.” He couples the Swedish composer’s work with Rachmaninoff’s romantic Second Piano Concerto, featuring Japanese jazz virtuoso Makoto Ozone as soloist (July 1). Their first concerts together were on an Asian tour with the New York Philharmonic that proved “so successful – and evidently, fun” (New York Times) that the Grammy-nominated pianist has since become one of the conductor’s regular collaborators.

Click here for high-resolution photos.

Alan Gilbert: summer engagements

June 26 & July 1
Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra
     June 26
Bernstein: Overture to Candide
     Copland: Appalachian Spring (suite for full orchestra)
Ives: Symphony No. 2

July 1
Pettersson: Symphony No. 7|
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 (with Makoto Ozone, piano)

July 18–26
Santa Fe, NM
Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
     July 18 & 19 (violin)
Schumann: Piano Quartet in E-flat, Op. 47

July 21 (conducting)
St. Francis Auditorium, New Mexico Museum of Art
Takemitsu: Rain Coming for chamber orchestra

July 24 (conducting)
St. Francis Auditorium, New Mexico Museum of Art
Stravinsky: Concerto in E-flat for Chamber Orchestra, Dumbarton Oaks”

July 25 & 26 (violin)
St. Francis Auditorium, New Mexico Museum of Art
Ligeti: Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano, Hommage à Brahms”

Aug 1 & 2
Lenox, MA

Aug 1
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Schumann: The Bride of Messina Overture
Saint-Saëns: Violin Concerto No. 3 (with Stefan Jackiw, violin)
Stenhammar: Serenade

Aug 2
Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra
Sibelius: Symphony No. 3

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© 21C Media Group, June 2021


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