New Honors for Alan Gilbert on Heels of Triumphant LSO Debut

1st April 2016 / Download this Article

When Alan Gilbert gave the first of his two recent concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra earlier this month, the Guardian ran its review under the headline: “New York maestro hands audience an adrenaline rush.” This auspicious debut marks the latest in a string of successes for the Grammy Award-winning conductor, who was recently named an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, and has been chosen to receive an honorary doctorate from Westminster Choir College later this spring. Meanwhile, after returning to conduct a special gala evening at his alma mater, the Juilliard School, Gilbert looks forward to concluding his seventh season as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic with a wealth of programs at home in New York, on tour in California, and in the second NY PHIL BIENNIAL, a flagship project that represents one of the most significant innovations of his distinguished tenure.

For his first appearances with the London Symphony Orchestra, Gilbert led a pair of programs featuring the music of Scandinavia. Classical Source observed: “Gilbert seems to have hit the ground running. … There was a palpable positive connection.” In Sibelius’s stirring tone poem En Saga, he “presided over a tension-filled, vivid and enchanted account that sported a wide dynamic range” (Classical Source), while in the Finnish master’s classically economical Third Symphony, The Times’ critic found that “Gilbert’s incisive way with dynamic shifts brought positive results, and I … came home humming lilting morsels.” In Nielsen’s mighty Fourth Symphony, “The Inextinguishable,” Classical Source considered “Gilbert authoritative and the LSO hugely responsive.” Likewise, in the overture to the Danish composer’s opera Maskarade:

“There was a real sense of theatre and movement, as if we were eavesdropping on vivacious conversations as the dancers at a ball spun by. Gilbert struck a fine balance between Mozartian grace and Straussian fun … in this fleet and exuberant performance” (Seen and Heard International).

All told, as The Standard concluded, “Judging from Gilbert’s debut concert, a long-term relationship seems likely.”

Gilbert is already a regular and favored guest of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and a longtime champion of French music, whether as conductor on Poèmes, Renée Fleming’s Grammy Award-winning Decca release, or violinist in the New York Philharmonic’s recent “Messiaen Week.” The significance of his contribution to promoting the arts in France and beyond was recognized this past November, when the conductor – already elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the recipient of a 2015 Foreign Policy Association Medal – was named an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.

He also looks forward to receiving an honorary doctorate from Westminster Choir College, where he serves as the commencement speaker on May 14. His long association with the Princeton school has seen Gilbert lead the Westminster Symphonic Choir in collaboration with the New York Philharmonic in a variety of repertoire including Handel’s Messiah, Mahler’s Third Symphony, and Christopher Rouse’s Requiem. Of the latter, the New York Times stated: “It is hard to imagine Mr. Rouse’s work receiving a more rapt reception – or a more passionate performance.”

NY PHIL BIENNIAL and other upcoming highlights
Meanwhile, at the New York Philharmonic, Gilbert looks forward to co-curating the second NY PHIL BIENNIAL, a citywide new-music immersion that proved a resounding success at its launch two years ago, when the New York Times called it “perhaps the most ambitious and extensive contemporary-music festival yet overseen by an American orchestra.” Highlights include his leadership of premieres by William Bolcom, John Corigliano, Per Nørgård, and the late Steven Stucky (June 10 & 11) as well as of Ligeti Forward, a three-part series with the Ensemble of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ALUMNI at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (June 3–5). Further Philharmonic highlights include the world premiere of a new commission from Franck Krawczyk, alongside Brahms’s Second Symphony and Schumann’s Cello Concerto with Principal Cello Carter Brey (April 27–30). Brahms’s Second is also the vehicle for the Philharmonic’s 25th Annual Free Memorial Day Concert at New York’s Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, which this year features a tribute to Kurt Masur, including addresses and performances honoring the late Music Director Emeritus from Gilbert, trumpet player Wynton Marsalis, and baritone Thomas Hampson (May 30). Gilbert and the Philharmonic reprise both Brahms and Schumann in Costa Mesa and San Francisco during the CALIFORNIA 2016 tour that also takes them to San Diego for the seventh symphonies of Beethoven and Sibelius (May 3–7).

As the Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies at New York’s Juilliard School, Gilbert returns to the venerable conservatory to conduct a special gala evening titled “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Weaving together Shakespeare’s words with Mendelssohn’s music, this features his fellow alums – Broadway actors Phillipa Soo (now appearing in Hamilton), Gabriel Ebert(winner of a Tony Award for Matilda, in which he was an original cast member), and Nick Choksi (now appearing in Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812) – with the support of the Juilliard Orchestra and Brooklyn Youth Chorus (April 25).

Alan Gilbert: upcoming engagements 
Except where noted, the New York Philharmonic concerts listed below take place at David Geffen Hall in New York, NY.

April 20–22
New York Philharmonic
SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 7
MAHLER: Das Lied von der Erde (with Stefan Vinke, tenor; Thomas Hampson, baritone)

April 25
Juilliard School Biennial Gala
Peter Jay Sharp Theater
Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Juilliard Orchestra
Brooklyn Youth Chorus

April 27–30
New York Philharmonic
Franck KRAWCZYK: Après (world premiere of New York Philharmonic commission, with the support of the Kravis Prize for New Music)
SCHUMANN: Cello Concerto (with Carter Brey, cello)
BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2

May 3–7: New York Philharmonic CALIFORNIA 2016 tour

May 3: Costa Mesa, CA (Segerstrom Center for the Arts)
May 7: San Francisco, CA (Davies Symphony Hall)
BRAHMS: Tragic Overture
SCHUMANN: Cello Concerto (with Carter Brey, cello)
BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2

May 4: San Diego, CA (Copley Symphony Hall)
May 6: San Francisco, CA (Davies Symphony Hall)
BEETHOVEN: Egmont Overture
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 7
SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 7
SIBELIUS: Finlandia

Annual Free Memorial Day Concert, A Tribute to Kurt Masur

May 30
The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine
New York Philharmonic
BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2

May 23–June 11: NY PHIL BIENNIAL

June 3
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Ligeti Forward, Program I
Alexandre LUNSQUI: Kinetic Study 2 and Three Short Pieces
Unsuk CHIN: Fantaisie mécanique
LIGETI: Piano Concerto (with Conor Hanick, piano)

June 4
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Ligeti Forward, Program II
Marc-André DALBAVIE: Axiom
LIGETI: Cello Concerto (with Jay Campbell, cello)

June 5
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Ligeti Forward, Program III
John ZORN: The Remedy of Fortune
LIGETI: Violin Concerto (with Pekka Kuusisto, violin)

June 10
New York Philharmonic
William BOLCOM: Trombone Concerto (world premiere of New York Philharmonic co-commission with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra; with Joseph Alessi, trombone)
John CORIGLIANO: Conjurer: Concerto for Percussionist and String Orchestra (New York premiere; with Martin Grubinger, percussion)

June 11
New York Philharmonic
Pierre BOULEZ: Messagesquisse (with Eric Bartlett, solo cello; Patrick Jee, Qiang Tu, Sumire Kudo, Maria Kitsopoulos, Alexei Yupanqui Gonzales, Wendy Sutter, ensemble)
Steven STUCKY: Second Concerto for Orchestra (New York premiere)
Per NØRGÅRD: Symphony No. 8 (U.S. premiere)