Now in his sixth season as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert looks forward to taking the orchestra on their eighth international tour together, and their sixth to Europe, when they embark on EUROPE / SPRING 2015 (April 16–May 1). Under Gilbert’s leadership, the Philharmonic will perform in Dublin, London, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Paris, Frankfurt, and Cologne, juxtaposing canonical masterworks with a theatrical collaboration, the world premiere of a new commission, and other examples of key initiatives introduced during his tenure. Tour highlights include two presentations of Giants Are Small’s theatrical reimagining of Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka, staged during a residency at London’s Barbican Centre; accounts of Ravel’s Shéhérazade with Joyce DiDonato and of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Nyx; the world premiere of Peter Eötvös’s one-act opera, Senza sangue, a Philharmonic co-commission starring Anne Sofie von Otter and Russell Braun, in Cologne; performances at the newly opened Philharmonie de Paris, the first time an American orchestra will perform at the venue; and Alan Gilbert hosting a concert of highlights from the Philharmonic’s recent concerts as part of CONTACT!, the new-music series. While in Europe, Gilbert also presents the annual Royal Philharmonic Society Lecture, speaking on “Orchestras in the 21st Century; a new paradigm” at London’s Guildhall School of Music & Drama (April 15). As the New York Times observes, “He is building a legacy that matters and is helping to change the template for what an American orchestra can be.”
“I am thrilled to be going back to Europe with the New York Philharmonic, playing music that the orchestra can perform with such flair and brilliance. There are a number of highlights that I’m looking forward to. Bringing Doug Fitch’s Petrushka project to London is definitely one of them, and so is playing French music in Paris, where we will perform Ravel’s Shéhérazade with Joyce DiDonato and Debussy’s Jeux. I love that we’re going back to Luxembourg and Frankfurt. Cologne will be special, as we will be presenting the world premiere of Peter Eötvös’s Senza Sangue. It’s not common for an orchestra to play a piece for the first time on tour, and mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter and baritone Russell Braun will be joining us for the debut of this one-act opera in the marvelous Kölner Philharmonie.
“It’s gratifying to continue to build on our relationships with some of our European partners, as we will do with the next installment in our partnership with London’s Barbican as well as our return to the Concertgebouw, where we have performed a number of times; the Concertgebouw is such a wonderful venue with a terrific audience!”
Petrushka: Giants Are Small collaboration
After launching the EUROPE / SPRING 2015 tour in the Irish capital, where Gilbert will make his Dublin debut and mark the Philharmonic’s first visit to the city in 19 years, he and the Philharmonic return to London’s Barbican Centre under the auspices of its International Associates initiative, looking to repeat the success of their first residency at the venue three years ago. This time, the centerpiece will be two staged presentations of Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka, drawn from A Dancer’s Dream: Two Works by Stravinsky (2013). The third of Gilbert’s innovative collaborations with Giants Are Small, it was A Dancer’s Dream that prompted the New York Times to ask: “Is this the future of the American orchestra? Let’s hope so.”
In Giants Are Small’s reimagining, Petrushka blends music with dance, live animation, pre-recorded video, puppetry, and circus arts, and spotlights Philharmonic musicians juggling, acting, and dancing. The pre-recorded footage features New York City Ballet principal dancer Sara Mearns; bass-baritone Eric Owens (next season’s Philharmonic Artist-in-Residence) as The Moor; and opera, Broadway, and film artist Anthony Roth Costanzo in the title role. The first London performance will mark the production’s European premiere, and the first time that Gilbert and the orchestra will have reprised a Giants Are Small project on tour. Previous hits yielded by the partnership include Le Grand Macabre and The Cunning Little Vixen. According to the New York Times: “These programs were not just high points in Mr. Gilbert’s tenure as music director of the Philharmonic, but inspiring examples of how an American orchestra can take a creative leap and reinvent itself.”
The Barbican residency also includes a program of highlights from the CONTACT! series, of which the New York Times writes: “The CONTACT! new-music concerts were among Alan Gilbert’s first ideas at the helm of the New York Philharmonic, and they remain some of his best.”
Ravel’s Shéhérazade with Joyce DiDonato; Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Nyx
Gilbert and the Philharmonic consistently tour with the world’s foremost soloists, including Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Yefim Bronfman, and Lang Lang. At their first Barbican residency, Joyce DiDonato partnered them in Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été, and on the upcoming tour they reunite with the Grammy Award-winning mezzo, again in French repertoire, for multiple performances of Ravel’s Shéhérazade.
Highlights of Gilbert’s EUROPE / SPRING 2015 programming also include Shostakovich’s searing Tenth Symphony, and Nyx (2010), a shimmering 21st-century nocturne for orchestra by Esa-Pekka Salonen. At Gilbert’s invitation, the Finnish composer begins a three-year tenure as the Philharmonic’s Composer-in-Residence next season. The Music Director considers Nyx, Salonen’s most recent orchestral piece, “a dark, shadowy work that is, at the same time, full of orchestral color,” and led the Philharmonic in “a fine, luscious performance” (New York Times) of it in Avery Fisher Hall just weeks ago.
Senza premiere in Cologne with Anne Sofie von Otter and Russell Braun
When Gilbert and the Philharmonic draw the tour to a close in Cologne, Nyx – together with Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin Suite – serves as a curtain-raiser for the world premiere of Peter Eötvös’s one-act opera, Senza sangue. Co-commissioned by the New York Philharmonic with the Kölner Philharmonie, the performance will feature Grammy Award-winning mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter and baritone Russell Braun, who, like DiDonato, previously collaborated with Gilbert and the Philharmonic on the world premiere of Peter Lieberson’s The World in Flower. As the New Yorker notes, “Gilbert’s keen interest in contemporary sounds has been a historic aspect of his term as music director.” Indeed, the Hungarian composer’s new opera – of which Gilbert also looks forward to leading the U.S. premiere in New York – is just the latest in a string of important new works that he has commissioned, premiered, and championed at the New York Philharmonic, where, as New York magazine recognizes, he remains “a force of permanent revolution.”
Annual Royal Philharmonic Society Lecture
The annual Royal Philharmonic Society Lecture provides a distinguished platform for leading practitioners and thinkers to discuss the future of classical music; recent speakers have included Roger Wright, former Director of the BBC Proms and Controller of BBC Radio 3; composers Steve Reich and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies; neuroscientist Susan Greenfield; and music journalist and writer Alex Ross. Gilbert comments:
“It is a great honor to be invited to give the Royal Philharmonic Society Lecture. … The subject of classical music and its future is always in my mind, so being able to address them by following a line of important composers, critics and administrators in this high-profile forum will be both a challenge and a pleasure.”
In “Orchestras in the 21st Century; a new paradigm,” which marks his first public lecture outside America, Gilbert will argue that in order for an orchestra to be truly successful, leadership cannot only come from the top down. He explains,
“Of course vision and leadership are important, but a crucial ingredient for success is the extent to which musicians are able to rethink their role beyond the concert hall stage. What is needed is nothing less than a new definition of what it means to be a musician.”
More information about his upcoming lecture, which takes place at the Milton Court Concert Hall in London’s Guildhall School, is available here.
A list of Alan Gilbert’s upcoming New York engagements follows.