Press Room

Alan Gilbert’s Winter/Spring 2009

Alan Gilbert’s first season as the new Music Director of the New York Philharmonic doesn’t begin until September 2009,
but he’ll be back this spring to lead his hometown orchestra in two programs
(Apr 30 – May 5 and May 7–9, respectively) that will include his first
performance of a Mahler symphony with the orchestra
as well as the world premiere of The World in Flower, a new work by composer Peter
commissioned by the New York Philharmonic.  Before those concerts, however, Gilbert will return to the
podiums of several major orchestras on both sides of the Atlantic, including
the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Mar 5–10), Hamburg’s NDR Symphony Orchestra (Mar 27–29), and the Berlin
Philharmonic Orchestra
(Apr 18 and 19).  Before
returning to New York, he will also make his debut with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra (Mar 18–21).

In Boston, Gilbert will conduct Charles Ives’s haunting (and daunting) Symphony
No. 4
, which he
conducted to great acclaim with the New York Philharmonic in June 2004.  Alex Ross reported on the occasion for
the New Yorker:

intermission [Gilbert] turned in a stupendous performance of the Ives
Fourth.  Often, this piece comes
off as a kind of spring break for orchestra, oboes gone wild; … Gilbert made
the notorious ‘Comedy’ movement into an overwhelming force of nature, almost scary
in its progress.  Then, in the
fugal slow movement, he led with a hypnotic slow beat, at once liquid and
exact.  The strings sang out in
endless intertwining lines, and emotion surged through the music.  This man can conduct.”

Anne Midgette wrote presciently in the New York Times: “The Ives concert he led on
Saturday night sounded fantastic. 
He leads with authority, energy, humor.  And he seems to be on the way to a big career.”

With the Berlin Philharmonic, Gilbert will conduct an
all-Czech program featuring Dvorák’sbeloved Cello Concerto, with soloist Steven Isserlis, and Martinu’s deeply expressive Symphony No.
.  Gilbert led the Chicago Symphony in the
latter work in February 2005, prompting veteran critic John von Rhein to write
in the Chicago Tribune,

meaty neoclassical score abounds in memorable ideas, good-humored energy, and
scoring that’s remarkably airy despite its size, including an athletic piano
part.  Gilbert and the orchestra
gave back to the audience everything that is affirmative in this masterpiece.”

Gilbert first conducted the storied BPO in February 2006,
substituting at the last minute for an indisposed Bernard Haitink.  Klaus Geitel, the dean of German music
critics, was on hand to give this glowing account in the Berliner Morgenpost:

“Only a month after his triumphant
Berlin debut with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester in a glorious performance
of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony in the Konzerthaus, Alan Gilbert … was on the podium
again, this time in the Philharmonie and in front of the Berlin Philharmonic. …
He is a bundle of energy who fully understands how to coax his orchestra into a
real frenzy.  The outer movements
[of Schumann’s First Symphony] swell in his hands right up to their gigantic
releases.  But he also proves to be
a master of delicate nuances.  The larghetto was absolutely poetic – dying away
as if breathing its last … Gilbert is the name of the man on the podium, and we
hope he’ll come back to Berlin again soon.  He is absolutely aquiver with musicality and a clear view of
his goal, but he’s self-contained, not nervous or high-strung, and not
flashy.  He knows exactly which way
he wants to take the music.  And
that’s the way music works: anyone who doesn’t know what’s at the end can’t
find the way there.  Gilbert never
takes his eye off it, and all his passion never distracts him from that
goal.  His gestures are extremely
clear and his body-language speaks volumes, especially the musical language of
the score in front of him.  He is
the embodiment of a conducting ‘event.’”

In the brief interview below, Alan Gilbert discusses his
upcoming engagements.  Complete
dates and program details also follow. 
For additional information visit Alan Gilbert’s new web site:

A conversation with Alan Gilbert

month you were at a press conference on the stage of Avery Fisher Hall
announcing the details of your first season as Music Director of the New York
Philharmonic.  What did that feel

It was an
incredible relief to talk publicly about ideas that had been swirling around my
head for a year and a half.  A
music director’s first season receives a certain kind of scrutiny that made it
feel somewhat pressured, but the fact is that I’m really proud of what we’ve
come up with and I think it’s a wonderful season.  All of the concerts feature programs that I’d love to
hear.  It’s my hope that the public
in New York will feel the same!

recently been conducting Mahler’s Third Symphony with both the Royal Stockholm
Philharmonic and the NDR Symphony, and it’s one of the first pieces you’ll be
doing with the NYPO in your first season. 
Does this work have a special significance for you and does your
approach to it differ with each orchestra?

Any time an
element in a performance changes, the result will be different.  Two different conductors working with
the same orchestra will have a different result working on the same piece, and
a conductor working on the same piece with two different orchestras will come
up with a different result.  It’s
the chemistry of the moment that’s important in live performance, which is why
it’s fun to do the same piece with different orchestras.  Doing Mahler Three over the last couple
of weeks gave me a chance to experiment. 
The magnificent last movement can stand a huge range of interpretative
choices, and that was fun to play with.

May concerts with the New York Philharmonic feature another Mahler Symphony –
the First.  Have you done Mahler
before with the orchestra, and how does it feel to know that the composer was
one of your predecessors on the podium?

The New
York Philharmonic has a unique way with Mahler.  This will, in fact, be the first symphony of Mahler’s that
I’ve done with them.  I have,
however, done Mahler orchestral songs with them.  I’ve heard them play Mahler my whole life.  There are very few places that have
such an intrinsic understanding of the world of Mahler and I couldn’t be more
excited to have the possibility of doing lots by this composer with this great

will also be the world premiere of
The World in Flower, a new song cycle by Peter
Lieberson, on that program, which features guest soloist mezzo-soprano Joyce
DiDonato.  Have you conducted
Lieberson’s music before?  And have
you worked with Joyce before?

I have
never conducted Peter’s music, but I know him well and have known him for a
long time.  He was my composition
and theory teacher in Harvard and I’ve known and loved his music for a long
time.  Joyce is someone I got to
know in Santa Fe when I was conducting the opera there.  She’s a fantastic artist and is having
well-deserved success.

critics described your performance of Ives’s Fourth Symphony with the New York
Philharmonic, a few seasons ago, as a breakthrough.  Did it feel that way to you at the time, and what made you
program it with the Boston Symphony, where you’ll conduct it in early March?

It’s an
amazing work, and the New York Philharmonic played it brilliantly when we did
it during their Ives festival a few seasons ago.  One of the reasons for doing it with the BSO was that the
orchestra was interested in it.  I
threw the idea of doing it out there, knowing that few orchestras are willing
to take on the enormous logistical challenges the work presents, so I was
enormously pleased that they agreed to do it.

after that you make another important return engagement, this time to Berlin to
do Martinu’s Symphony No. 4 and Dvorák’s Cello Concerto with the Berlin

I can’t
wait.  It will be my second time
with an orchestra that I’ve admired for a long time, so I hope this is the next
step in a long relationship.

Gilbert – highlights of upcoming engagements

March 5, 6, 7, and 10 (Boston,

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Sibelius: Night
Ride and Sunrise
Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (with Stephen Hough); Ives:
Symphony No. 4

18, 19, 20, and 21 (Vienna, Austria)

Symphony Orchestra

Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 2 (with Heinrich Schiff);

Concerto for Orchestra

27–29 (Hamburg [Mar 27 and 29] and Kiel [Mar 28], Germany)

Symphony Orchestra, Hamburg

Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, Suites 1 and 2; Debussy: Three Nocturnes

includes Messiaen: Poèmes pour Mi (Mar 27 and 29) and Haydn: Concerto for Violin and
Orchestra in C major (with Roland Greutter – Mar 28)

April 18
and 19 (Berlin, Germany)

Philharmonic Orchestra

Cello Concerto (with Steven Isserlis); Martinu: Symphony No. 4

April 30, May 1, 2, and 5 (New
York, NY)

New York Philharmonic

Dvorák: The Golden Spinning Wheel; Saint-Saëns: Violin Concerto No. 3
(with Joshua Bell); Martinu: Symphony No. 4

May 7–9
(New York, NY)

New York

Mahler: Blumine; Lieberson: The World in Flower (world premiere and New York
Philharmonic commission with Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano; Russell Braun,
baritone; and the New York Choral Artists); Mahler: Symphony No.  

#          #          #

February 24, 2009

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