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2021-22 Season Preview

21cmediagroup / 23rd August 2021 / News

After conducting the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood earlier this month, Alan Gilbert looks forward to a full European lineup this fall. Welcomed as one of “the most important bearers of hope on Hamburg’s cultural scene” (Hamburger Abendblatt), he launches his third season as Chief Conductor of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra with programs featuring the Fourth Symphonies of Bruckner and Schumann, the world premiere of a major new commission from Mark-Anthony Turnage, and collaborations with Kirill Gerstein, Yo-Yo Ma, and Joshua Bell and Renée Fleming, both of whom join Gilbert and the orchestra on their extensive European tour. The Grammy-winning conductor also makes his first appearances as Music Director of the Royal Swedish Opera with productions of Die Walküre and Brahms’s German Requiem, as well as returning to the podiums of the Royal Concertgebouw and Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestras.

American audiences can look forward to seeing Gilbert again next spring, when he returns to lead the Cleveland Orchestra in a program of Chopin, Debussy, Lili Boulanger and Unsuk Chin (April 7–10) and the Boston Symphony in concerts featuring the world premiere of a new BSO co-commission from Bernard Rands (April 14–16).

Three programs and European tour with Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra

In his first two seasons as Chief Conductor of Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Gilbert succeeded in “taking this marvelous ensemble to the next level” (Klassik begeistert). Now, after spending the summer in the U.S. and Asia, he rejoins the orchestra for three fall programs and an extensive European tour.

The centerpiece of their Opening Night concert (Sep 1) is the previously postponed world premiere performance of Time Flies (2019) by Mark-Anthony Turnage, the eminent English composer who celebrated his 60th birthday last year. Scored for large orchestra with a prominent part for soprano saxophone, Time Flies was commissioned by the NDR in collaboration with BBC Radio 3 and the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, of which Gilbert is the Principal Guest Conductor. During his eight-year tenure as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, it was he who led the American premiere of Turnage’s earlier work Frieze, drawing a “kaleidoscopic performance” (New York Times) from the orchestra. Comprising three movements dedicated to London, Hamburg and Tokyo respectively, Time Flies shares the program with three modern American classics: the Symphonic Dances from Bernstein’s West Side Story, Gershwin’s An American in Paris and Barber’s lyrical, expressive and formidably difficult Cello Concerto, with peerless American cellist Yo-Yo Ma, a longtime musical associate of the conductor’s, as soloist.

With the New York Philharmonic, Gilbert led “one of the greatest performances of Schumann’s Second Symphony you will ever hear” (New York Concert Review). For their next engagement, Gilbert and the NDR perform the German Romantic composer’s Fourth Symphony and join Gilmore Artist Kirill Gerstein for two contrasting works for piano and orchestra: Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto and György Kurtág’s … quasi una fantasia … (Sep 16 & 17). When the conductor and pianist collaborated with the Cleveland Orchestra on another contemporary concerto, that of Thomas Adès, they impressed Cleveland Classical with the “fervor and remarkable textual transparency” of their interpretation.

For their third season-opening program, Gilbert leads the NDR in a pairing of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony, the “Romantic,” with Messiaen’s Poèmes pour Mi (Oct 14 & 17). After programming a number of Bruckner symphonies during his New York tenure, two years ago he recorded the composer’s Seventh Symphony with the NDR for Sony Classical, drawing “playing of considerable eloquence from his new orchestra” (Gramophone). Their soloist in the French song cycle is soprano Renée Fleming, whom Gilbert conducts on the Grammy-winning album Poèmes. They previously performed Messiaen’s work in the conductor’s first concert as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, when the New York Times observed:

“It was Mr. Gilbert’s idea to entice her into singing this major, 30-minute Messiaen score. It was an inspired idea. Ms. Fleming is perfect for this demanding work, and she sang it splendidly.”

Gilbert and the NDR reprise Bruckner’s “Romantic” for their upcoming European tour, which kicks off in Hamburg before taking them to Paris, Lyon, Madrid and other cities to be announced (Oct 22–Nov 3). In Paris and Lyon they reunite with Fleming for Poèmes pour mi; elsewhere, they pair the symphony with Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, featuring soloist Joshua Bell, with whom Gilbert’s many past collaborations include a “magnificent performance” (New York Times) of Bernstein’s Serenade and an account of Tchaikovsky’s concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra in which “Gilbert drew out a barnstorming crescendo that set Bell up for an adrenaline-rush finish” (The Guardian).

Gilbert and the NDR ring in the New Year with a pair of adventurous programs celebrating contemporary composers John Adams, Thomas Adès, Stefano Bollani and Esa-Pekka Salonen, before embarking on a similarly ambitious spring season. Besides collaborating with some of his favorite soloists, including Emanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman, Leonidas Kavakos and Yuja Wang, Gilbert leads the orchestra in two programs at “Age of Anxiety – An American Journey,” a February festival featuring his acclaimed interpretation of Ives’s visionary Fourth Symphony, before opening the sixth annual Hamburg International Music Festival with an account of Haydn’s oratorio The Creation. A four-week spring immersion in music inspired by nature, and in current debates about the environment and climate change, the festival also sees Gilbert conduct Dvořák’s Rusalka and the world premiere of Marc Neikrug’s Fourth Symphony, a new NDR commission.

First appearances as Music Director of the Royal Swedish Opera

A major player on the opera scene, Gilbert has led productions at such legendary houses as Milan’s La Scala, Zurich Opera, Vienna State Opera, Los Angeles Opera and New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where his leadership of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic was released on DVD, winning him his first Grammy Award. Now he looks forward to inaugurating his new appointment as Music Director of the Royal Swedish Opera. First, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, he conducts a special performance of Brahms’s German Requiem featuring soloists Christina Nilsson and Karl-Magnus Fredriksson at Stockholm’s neo-Baroque Gustaf Vasa Church (Sep 11). Then, for the first operatic production of his tenure, Gilbert helms Wagner’s Die Walküre, starring Iréne Theorin as Brünnhilde, Greer Grimsley as Wotan and Katarina Dalayman as Fricka in a staging by Staffan Valdemar Holm, managing director of Germany’s Düsseldorf Playhouse (Nov 20–Dec 4). A keen and celebrated Wagnerian, Gilbert has previously conducted A Ring Synthesis, his own arrangement of music from the Ring Cycle, and in one of the final performances of his New York Philharmonic directorship, he led “a riveting Das Rheingold” that the New York Times hailed as “a remarkable evening of music theater.”

Returns to Royal Concertgebouw & Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestras

Gilbert also returns to two of Europe’s most venerable ensembles this fall. The Netherlands’ Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is one of the many where he is a favored guest, and after opening the orchestra’s 2020-21 season with an all-Gershwin program, now he leads the orchestra both at its Amsterdam home (Sep 22 & 23), and on tour in Bucharest (Sep 25). In both capitals they flank works for piano and orchestra by Strauss and Rachmaninoff, again featuring Kirill Gerstein, with the Helios Overture and Fifth Symphony by Carl Nielsen, of whose music the conductor is an ardent and longtime champion. Made with the New York Philharmonic as part of their “Nielsen Project,” his recording of the Danish composer’s Third Symphony was chosen as Gramophone’s favorite recorded version of the work.

To complete his fall lineup, Gilbert reunites with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra for a program of Schumann, Stenhammar and Sibelius, with Lisa Batiashvili on violin (Sep 30–Oct 3). His relationship with the ensemble reached new heights seven years ago, when he led its season-opening performances at home and on tour at Musikfest Berlin, the Lucerne Festival and London’s BBC Proms. Their account of Mahler’s Third Symphony was named one of the highlights of the Proms season by the UK’s Independent, which declared: “Gilbert blew not just our socks but everything else off.” Likewise, their rendition of Beethoven’s Ninth on the penultimate night of the festival “found Beethoven’s fire, with clear and controlled playing in the earlier movements giving way to an explosive choral finale” (The Guardian).

Alan Gilbert: 2021-22 engagements
Sep 1
Hamburg, Germany
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
Opening Night
BERNSTEIN: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
BARBER: Cello Concerto (with Yo-Yo Ma, cello)
MARK-ANTHONY TURNAGE: Time Flies (world premiere)
GERSHWIN: An American in Paris

Sep 11
Stockholm, Sweden
Royal Swedish Opera
BRAHMS: A German Requiem (with Christina Nilsson, soprano; Karl-Magnus Fredriksson, baritone)

Sep 16 & 17
Hamburg, Germany
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
GYÖRGY KURTÁG: … quasi una fantasia … (with Kirill Gerstein, piano)
BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor (with Kirill Gerstein, piano)
SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 4

Sep 22 & 23: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Sep 25: Bucharest, Romania
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
NIELSEN: Helios Overture
STRAUSS: Burleske in D minor (with Kirill Gerstein, piano)
RACHMANINOFF: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (with Kirill Gerstein, piano)
NIELSEN: Symphony No. 5

Sep 30; Oct 1 & 3
Leipzig, Germany
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
SCHUMANN: The Bride of Messina Overture
SIBELIUS: Violin Concerto (with Lisa Batiashvili, violin)
STENHAMMAR: Serenade in F

Oct 14, 17, 19 & 21: Hamburg, Germany
Oct 22–Nov 3: European tour
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
MESSIAEN: Poèmes pour Mi (with Renee Fleming, soprano; Oct 14, 17, 22 & 23)
BRUCH: Scottish Fantasy (with Joshua Bell, violin; other dates)
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 4, “Romantic”
Oct 14, 17, 19 & 21: Hamburg, Germany
Oct 22: Paris, France
Oct 23: Lyon, France
Oct 26: Madrid, Spain
Other destinations TBA

Nov 20, 27 & 30; Dec 4
Stockholm, Sweden
Royal Swedish Opera
WAGNER: Die Walküre

Dec 30 & 31; Jan 1, 2022
Hamburg, Germany
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
STEFANO BOLLANI: Concerto Azzurro (with Stefano Bollani, piano)
GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue (version for piano and orchestra; with Stefano Bollani, piano)
RACHMANINOFF: Symphonic Dances, Op. 45

Jan 11 & 12
Hamburg, Germany
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
JOHN ADAMS: Tromba Lontana
JOHN ADAMS: Short Ride in a Fast Machine
THOMAS ADÈS: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 (with Kirill Gerstein, piano)
ESA-PEKKA SALONEN: Wing on Wing (with Anu Komsi and Piia Komsi, sopranos)

Feb 2 & 3
Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm Philharmonic
MAHLER: Symphony No. 9

Feb 11
Hamburg, Germany
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
“Age of Anxiety – An American Journey”
BARBER: Essay for Orchestra
COPLAND: A Lincoln Portrait
IVES: Symphony No. 4

Feb 12
Hamburg, Germany
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
“Age of Anxiety – An American Journey”
STRAVINSKY: Symphony in Three Movements
KORNGOLD: Violin Concerto in D
COPLAND: Symphony No. 3

Feb 27
Hamburg, Germany
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
BEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No. 3
LISZT: Piano Concerto No. 1 (with Yuja Wang, piano)
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5

March 9, 10, 12 & 13
Tel Aviv, Israel
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
BOULANGER: D’un matin de printemps
SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto (with Leif Ove Andsnes, piano)
RAVEL: Valse nobles et sentimentales
ROUSSEL: Bacchus et Ariane, Op. 43: Suite No. 2

March 26-27
Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra
ANNA THORVALDSDOTTIR: Metacosmos (2017; Japanese premiere)
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 7

April 7, 9 & 10
Cleveland, OH
Cleveland Orchestra
BOULANGER: D’un matin de printemps
CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 2 (with Emanuel Ax, piano)

April 14–16
Boston, MA
Boston Symphony Orchestra
BERNARD RANDS: Symphonic Fantasy (world premiere of BSO co-commission)
BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto (with Joshua Bell, violin)

April 28 & 29
Hamburg, Germany
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
Hamburg International Music Festival (Opening Night)
HAYDN: The Creation (with NDR Vocal Ensemble; Christina Landshamer, soprano; Benjamin Appl, baritone)

May 6 & 8
Hamburg, Germany
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
Hamburg International Music Festival
DVOŘÁK: Rusalka (with NDR Vocal Ensemble)

May 19 & 22: Hamburg, Germany
May 20: Kiel, Germany
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
MARC NEIKRUG: Symphony No. 4 (world premiere of NDR commission)
BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 1 (with Emanuel Ax, piano)

June 24–26
Hamburg, Germany
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra
BARTÓK: Piano Concerto No. 2 (with Yefim Bronfman, piano)
STRAUSS: An Alpine Symphony