Press Room

Alan Gilbert’s Spring at New York Philharmonic: Premieres by John Adams and Thierry Escaich, Plus Ravel with Artist-in-Association Inon Barnatan

In the sixth season of his musical directorship, Alan Gilbert remains a “force of permanent revolution” (New York) at the New York Philharmonic, where he ushers in the spring with a trio of programs that highlight his commitment to forging and nurturing creative partnerships and expanding the orchestral repertoire. He showcases two important new Philharmonic co-commissions, leading Leila Josefowicz in the world premiere of Scheherazade.2 — Dramatic symphony for violin and orchestra by John Adams (March 26–28), and joining Artist-in-Residence Lisa Batiashvili and her husband, Francois Leleux, for the U.S. premiere of Thierry Escaich’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe (April 8–11). Gilbert also presents Nyx, the most recent orchestral work by next season’s Composer-in-Residence, Esa-Pekka Salonen, alongside performances of Ravel’s G-major Piano Concerto that mark the Philharmonic concerto debut of Inon Barnatan, the orchestra’s first Artist-in-Association (March 19, 20, 21 & 24).

World premiere of John Adams’s Scheherazade.2 with Leila Josefowicz

As the New Yorker notes, “Gilbert’s keen interest in contemporary sounds has been a historic aspect of his term as music director,” and this month brings one of the key world premieres of his tenure: the first performances of Scheherazade.2 by John Adams, which the Philharmonic commissioned in collaboration with Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Royal Concertgebouw; and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, David Robertson, Chief Conductor and Artistic Director. Designated a “dramatic symphony for violin and orchestra,” the new work is the first that Adams has dedicated to and expressly written for MacArthur fellow Leila Josefowicz. Already a “compulsive champion” (Los Angeles Times) of his Grawemeyer Award-winning Violin Concerto, the violinist also performs Adams’s electric violin piece The Dharma at Big Sur, has received a Grammy nomination for her account of his Road Movies, and considers the American master composer “like family.”

Adams explains:

Scheherazade.2 imagines an empowered modern Scheherazade, a storyteller / hostage whose strength of character and powers of endurance are tested over and over by male hegemony. The ‘scenario’ was suggested by images in the media of imperiled women under the pressure of religious and political conservatism, including, but not limited to, women in Egypt, Afghanistan, Central Africa, and the U.S.”

Gilbert, who is, like Josefowicz, a longtime champion of Adams’s work, is already confident that the new symphony will prove to be one of the composer’s “major masterpieces.” As he amplifies,

“Adams is today’s Dean of American Composers – many of his works are rightfully acknowledged as landmarks in the last half-century of music. John’s style has evolved, but he has always been rooted in an incredibly idiomatic use of the orchestra. This piece reflects John’s characteristic combination of highly developed craft with a uniquely gripping narrative style of composition.”

Having scored the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording with his leadership of Adams’s Doctor Atomic at the Metropolitan Opera, Gilbert now takes the podium for the premier performances of Scheherazade.2. This forms the centerpiece of a program that also offers a pair of early 20th-century Russian works: Stravinsky’s Petrushka, in the original 1911 version, and Lyadov’s The Enchanted Lake (March 26–28).

U.S. Premiere of Thierry Escaich Concerto with Lisa Batiashvili & Francois Leleux

It was Gilbert who launched the New York Philharmonic’s Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence and Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence initiatives in the inaugural season of his tenure. Now concluding her term in the latter post is another great female violinist: Lisa Batiashvili, who was recently named Musical America’s Instrumentalist of the Year 2015. For her final performances with Gilbert and the orchestra, Batiashvili reunites with her husband and longtime musical partner, oboist Francois Leleux, in a pairing that has been dubbed “a star act” (The Times of London). Together they present the U.S. premiere of Thierry Escaich’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe, another Philharmonic co-commission. When Gilbert led the two soloists, for whom the concerto was written, in its world premiere with the NDR Symphony Hamburg in December, the Hamburger Abendblatt observed:

“This artfully constructed piece effused an energy seemingly fed in equal measure by Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Arvo Pärt’s sacrosanct simplicity: rhythmically extremely demanding and detailed, yet also breathing deeply and with great clarity of spirit. The husband and wife soloist team of Lisa Batiashvili and Francois Leleux, for whom the work was composed, gave a performance demonstrating the ability characteristic of virtuosos in their league, with their playing of the fast-paced, complicated music still allowing space for thought and feeling.”

As for Gilbert’s own performance, the orchestra “rewarded his inspiring presence with enormous vitality in sound” (Hamburger Abendblatt) and “everything was just right” (Lübecker Nachrichten).

The Music Director recognizes the concerto as being “a highly personal statement by this very important French composer.” Shedding light on his creative process, Escaich explains:

“Throughout my career, I have often found myself reworking certain forms of the past in order to make them express something new. I wanted to use J.S. Bach’s thematic material for this double concerto, shaping it until it entered my own sound world. I was thinking of the warmth and breadth of Francois’s sound while writing, and, too, of the spirit and energy of Lisa’s violin, which guides the persistent rhythm running throughout the piece.”

Escaich’s concerto shares the program with Bach’s Double Concerto for Violin and Oboe, the Baroque masterpiece that inspired Escaich’s work, and with Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony (April 8–11).

Inon Barnatan’s Philharmonic Concerto Debut and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Nyx

This season saw Gilbert launch a third Philharmonic residency: that of Artist-in-Association. A major new partnership, the appointment is intended to highlight an emerging artist over the course of several consecutive seasons, building a relationship between the artist, the Philharmonic, and its audiences. The first is Inon Barnatan, hailed as “a true poet of the keyboard” (Evening Standard, London). Calling him “a complete artist, wonderful pianist, a probing intellect, [who] plays an enormous range of music,” Gilbert explains:

Inon Barnatan is an artist that I have known for a long time, but the concerts in March will be his first project as soloist in his new capacity as Artist-in-Association. He’s an amazing musician, and I’m looking forward to a long musical relationship with him.

For their first orchestral collaboration together, Gilbert, Barnatan and the orchestra undertake Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G. A favorite of the Music Director’s, the jazz-inflected concerto is flanked with orchestral works by Debussy, Richard Strauss, and Esa-Pekka Salonen, who begins a three-year tenure as the Philharmonic’s next Composer-in-Residence in the coming season. Marking the first time that anyone but the Finnish composer has conducted his music at the Philharmonic, Gilbert leads performances of Salonen’s Nyx (2010), which he considers “a dark, shadowy work that is, at the same time, full of orchestral color” in upcoming concerts at Lincoln Center (March 19, 20 & 24) and at Long Island University in Brookville, NY (March 21). He also looks forward to reprising Nyx at concerts in London, Amsterdam, Paris, Dublin and Cologne, when he and the Philharmonic embark on their EUROPE / SPRING 2015 tour (April 16 – May 1).

A list of Alan Gilbert’s upcoming New York engagements follows, and additional information may be found at his website: For high-resolution photos, click here.


Alan Gilbert: upcoming engagements

March 19, 20, 24
New York Philharmonic
Avery Fisher Hall
Esa-Pekka Salonen: Nyx
Ravel: Piano Concerto in G (with Inon Barnatan, piano)
Debussy: Jeux
Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier Suite

March 21
Brookville, New York
New York Philharmonic
Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, Long Island University
Esa-Pekka Salonen: Nyx
Ravel: Piano Concerto in G (with Inon Barnatan, piano)
Debussy: Jeux
Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier Suite

March 26, 27, 28
New York Philharmonic
Avery Fisher Hall
Lyadov: The Enchanted Lake
Stravinsky: Petrushka (1911, original version)
John Adams: Scheherazade.2 – Dramatic symphony for violin and orchestra (with Leila Josefowicz, violin; world premiere of New York Philharmonic co-commission)

April 8, 9, 10, 11
New York Philharmonic
Avery Fisher Hall
J.S. Bach: Concerto for Violin and Oboe (with Lisa Batiashvili, violin & Francois Leleux, oboe)
Thierry Escaich: Concerto for Violin and Oboe (with Lisa Batiashvili, violin & Francois Leleux, oboe; U.S. premiere of New York Philharmonic co-commission)
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10

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© 21C Media Group, March 2015

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