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Alan Gilbert Makes Oslo Philharmonic Debut and Returns to Leipzig, Munich, and Lyon This Winter

Alan Gilbert, Chief Conductor designate of Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra – with which his new Shostakovich recording just scored the Grammy Award-winning conductor a fifth Grammy nod – maintains a major European presence this winter. Having demonstrated “incredible chemistry” (Sächsische Zeitung Dresden) with the Staatskapelle Dresden last month, now he makes his Oslo Philharmonic debut with an all-English program of Elgar and Britten (Jan 18 & 19) and returns to the podiums of the Orchestre National de Lyon (Jan 25–27), Munich Philharmonic (Feb 1, 2 & 4), and Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, where he leads accounts of Beethoven’s mighty Ninth Symphony in a fully sold-out trio of New Year concerts that include the traditional annual TV broadcast (Dec 29–31). These high-profile European engagements follow the conductor’s first appearances with the New York Philharmonic since completing his eight-year tenure there as Music Director: a Bernstein tribute in which his “magnificent performanceshowed why he’s going to be missed” (New York Times), and the orchestra’s 175th birthday concert, which he concluded with a traversal of Beethoven’s Fifth that proved “the most spellbinding account of the all-too-familiar masterpiece that this listener ha[d] ever heard” (New York Classical Review).

For his first performances with the Oslo Philharmonic, Gilbert pairs Elgar’s First Symphony with Britten’s Piano Concerto. It was with a moving rendition of “Nimrod” from the older composer’s Enigma Variations that Gilbert led the New York Philharmonic in tribute to the late Sir Colin Davis and the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, while his all-Britten concert with the orchestra proved “a highlight of the Britten year” (New York Times). In Oslo, his soloist will be Leif Ove Andsnes, whom Gilbert considers “a thoughtful, deep artist … [who] has a way of playing with simplicity that is informed by very, very deep emotion.” He and the Norwegian pianist have collaborated many times, most recently impressing the New York Times with their “effortless brilliance and scrupulous integrity” at the New York Philharmonic’s 2012-13 season-opening gala.

Elgar’s symphony is also the vehicle for Gilbert’s return to the Munich Philharmonic, on a program that sees him reunite with Lisa Batiashvili for the Sibelius Violin Concerto. The Georgian violinist is a regular collaborator who was among those the conductor invited to celebrate his 50th birthday in a special New York Philharmonic concert last season.

Like the Munich ensemble, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra is one of many leading German orchestras with which Gilbert has established meaningful ties. Their relationship reached new heights in 2014-15, when he conducted the orchestra’s sensational season-launching performances at home in Saxony and on tour at Musikfest Berlin, the Lucerne Festival and London’s BBC Proms, where, according to the UK’s Independent, “Gilbert blew not just our socks but everything else off.” Their rendition of Beethoven’s monumental choral symphony was one with which they wowed the British and German press, and, as the conductor explains, the work holds special significance for the orchestra:

The Leipzig Gewandhaus has a long tradition of playing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the end of the year, and especially after having done that piece with them on tour a couple of years ago it’s thrilling to be going back to take part in this annual celebration.”

It was also with Beethoven’s Ninth that Gilbert made his final appearance as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic this past summer, before an audience of 7,000 at Santa Barbara’s Music Academy of the West.

To complete his winter lineup, the conductor returns to the Orchestre National de Lyon for performances in Aix-en-Provence and at the orchestra’s home. Unconventionally, their program opens with Brahms’s Third Symphony, in which Gilbert led the New York Philharmonic in “a spirited, richly textured account” (New York Times) earlier this year, and closes with Bach’s Third Orchestral Suite. Gilbert says:

“I’ve always enjoyed conducting the Orchestre National de Lyon, both because it’s a wonderful orchestra and also because it makes it possible for me to collaborate with my sister, who is the concertmaster there. We’re doing an unusual program in that it starts with the largest work and it works down to the smallest piece, but the Bach packs a great punch and I think it’ll be an inspiring way to close out the evening.”

Bookended by the two German works, the program’s centerpiece is Martinů’s First Cello Concerto, in which – as when Gilbert led Rome’s Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia this past February – his soloist will be Argentinean cellist Sol Gabetta.

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Already the winner of a 2011 Grammy Award for his account of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic at the Metropolitan Opera, Gilbert has just scored a fifth Grammy nomination for his leadership of Shostakovich’s two violin concertos, captured on a recording with Frank Peter Zimmermann and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra. This prompted BBC Music magazine to marvel:

“These recordings stand out as formidable achievements. They match technical mastery at the highest level with profound insight. No less impressive is the compelling interaction between Zimmermann and the excellent NDR Elbphilharmonie under Alan Gilbert, a crucial component in music that is so symphonic in design.”

Gilbert’s association with the German violinist is of long standing. It was he who appointed Zimmermann as the New York Philharmonic’s 2011-12 Artist-in-Residence, and just last season they collaborated at the Berlin Philharmonic and on the New York Philharmonic’s European tour.

The conductor looks forward to concluding the winter with a pair of high-profile U.S. guest engagements in collaboration with two more of today’s great string players. Having premiered John Adams’s Scheherazade.2 with Leila Josefowicz at the New York Philharmonic, he reunites with the violinist to reprise their “dazzling and inspired” (New York Times) interpretation of the work with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (March 1–3), before returning to the Cleveland Orchestra, where his recent collaboration succeeded in “evincing levels of comfort and mutual understanding enjoyed only by the initiated” (Cleveland Plain-Dealer), for Dvorák and Barber with Alisa Weilerstein (March 15–18).

For high-resolution photos, click here.

Alan Gilbert: winter engagements

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

Concerts with Orchestre National de Lyon

Brahms: Symphony No. 3

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

Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 3

Jan 25 & 27: Lyon, France

Jan 26: Aix-en-Provence, France

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: The Watersprite

Barber: Cello Concerto (with Alisa Weilerstein, cello)

Dvořák: Symphony No. 8

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© 21C Media Group, December 2017

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