Now embarking on his sixth season as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert also maintains a major international presence. Following his sensational debut with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in January of 2013, he was the natural choice to replace the orchestra’s indisposed music director, Riccardo Chailly; he not only launches the Gewandhaus season, but also takes the eminent ensemble on tour to the Lucerne Festival, Musikfest Berlin, and London’s BBC Proms. These prominent performances kick off a 2014-15 season that sees Gilbert undertake return guest engagements with leading orchestras on both sides of the Atlantic, from Germany’s Berlin Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, and NDR Symphony Orchestra Hamburg to the Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as returning to the podium of the Metropolitan Opera. At home with the New York Philharmonic, meanwhile, the conductor offers a characteristically rich and compelling lineup, balancing mainstays of the repertoire with premieres of New York Philharmonic commissions, forging and nurturing creative partnerships, and continuing to prove himself “a force of permanent revolution” (New York magazine) in his beloved native city.
From strength to strength at the New York Philharmonic
As his programming for the new season reflects, Gilbert remains “a galvanizing force at the Philharmonic,” who is committed to “helping to change the template for what an American orchestra can be” (New York Times). His conducting highlights include a multimedia Opening Gala Concert, exploring iconic Italian film scores with Joshua Bell, Renée Fleming, and Josh Groban; the U.S. premiere of Côme de Bellescize’s staging of Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake, starring Academy Award-winner Marion Cotillard; works by contemporary Nordic composers during the new-music series CONTACT!; the Silk Road Ensemble’s 15th-anniversary celebrations with Yo-Yo Ma; and the final phase of The Nielsen Project, Gilbert’s multi-season initiative with the Philharmonic, including the U.S. release of Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4 in September 2014 (and elsewhere October 1) on Denmark’s Dacapo label and distributed by Naxos.
As the New Yorker notes, “Gilbert’s keen interest in contemporary sounds has been a historic aspect of his term as music director.” In season-opening concerts, he and the Philharmonic give the first U.S. performance of Unsuk Chin’s Clarinet Concerto, setting the tone for a season that sees them premiere a number of important new commissions. These include the world premiere of Thunderstuck, a rock-inspired Philharmonic commission from Composer-in-Residence Christopher Rouse, and three Philharmonic co-commissions: the world premiere of John Adams’s Scheharazade.2, the U.S. premiere of Thierry Escaich’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe, and the world and U.S. premieres of Péter Eötvös’s one-act opera Senza Sangue. Gilbert debuts this last in Cologne during the orchestra’s EUROPE / SPRING 2015 tour, which also includes performances in Dublin, Paris, and London. In London they perform Giants Are Small’s reimagining of Petrushka during their second Barbican residency, and Gilbert gives the Royal Philharmonic Society’s annual lecture, entitled “Orchestras in the 21st Century: A New Paradigm.”
It was Gilbert who launched the 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, and these partnerships continue to flourish. Rouse’s term proved so fruitful that it has been extended into a third season, and violinist Lisa Batiashvili is the new Artist-in-Residence. Gilbert and the orchestra also welcome Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan as their first Artist-in-Association, an unprecedented new multi-season appointment created to foster deep long-term relationships with emerging soloists. Other artists of note who appear with the orchestra under Gilbert’s direction this season include soprano Angela Meade, mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter, violinist Leila Josefowicz, and pianists Lang Lang and former Artist-in-Residence Yefim Bronfman.
Two of the biggest hits of Gilbert’s past Philharmonic season were the inaugural, citywide NY PHIL BIENNIAL, “perhaps the most ambitious and extensive contemporary-music festival yet overseen by an American orchestra” (New York Times), and a staged, star-studded production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, which prompted New York magazine to observe: “Gilbert has already shown that the Philharmonic can be the best opera company in town; now he’s put Broadway on notice, too.” Besides presiding over the orchestra’s ASIA / WINTER 2014 tour, Gilbert also conducted the opening gala with Yo-Yo Ma; premieres by Rouse and Mark-Anthony Turnage; an all-Britten centennial program; Mozart’s last three symphonies; and a festival of Beethoven concertos with Yefim Bronfman. High points of Gilbert’s first four Philharmonic seasons include Philharmonic 360, a milestone spatial music program at the soaring Park Avenue Armory, Magnus Lindberg’s Kraft at the Volkswagen factory in Dresden, and knockout productions of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre, Janácek’s Cunning Little Vixen, and A Dancer’s Dream: Two Works by Stravinsky, which represent, the New York Times hopes, “the future of the American orchestra.” As the New Yorker states, “Gilbert is the musical leader the city needs.”
Guest conducting the Gewandhaus, Berlin Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, and more
Alan Gilbert's debut performance with the Berlin Philharmonic was described as "the embodiment of a conducting 'event'" by the Berlin Morgenpost, and the conductor continues to be in demand with the world's foremost orchestras. In January 2013, the Leipziger Volkszeitung pronounced his Leipzig Gewandhaus debut “a really great ‘Great Concert,’ with a great conductor,” explaining: “Gilbert fills a gap at the Gewandhaus. … [He] is an unpretentious expert, one who can embed sensuality and clarity in gestures of suggestive persuasion.” Now he returns to launch the Gewandhaus’s season with an account of Mahler’s Third Symphony, and to lead the orchestra, together with multiple choirs and soloists, in an open-air performance of Beethoven’s Ninth that forms the centerpiece of Leipzig’s all-day “Gewandhaustag” celebrations. He and the Saxon ensemble then reprise the Mahler at Musikfest Berlin and take both programs on tour to the Lucerne Festival and London’s BBC Proms. Gilbert returns to Germany in late fall, to conduct a trio of performances with each of the Berlin Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, and the NDR Symphony Orchestra Hamburg, where, as Principal Guest Conductor, he directs the world premiere of Escaich’s Concerto for Violin, Oboe and Orchestra.
Equally sought after in the States, the conductor returns to the Philadelphia Orchestra to lead Janácek's rarely-performed Glagolitic Mass, before resuming the podium at the Metropolitan Opera for a winter run of Mozart’s Don Giovanni with Peter Mattei in the title role. Gilbert made his Met debut conducting John Adams’s Doctor Atomic; the New York Times marveled: “The performance he draws from the Met orchestra and chorus is a revelation,” and the production’s subsequent DVD/Blu-ray release received the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording.
In 2013-14, Gilbert guest conducted many of Europe’s top orchestras, giving his first performances of the season with the Berlin Philharmonic, before returning to reprise Magnus Lindberg’s Kraft with the composer at the piano. He led his own arrangement of excerpts from Wagner’s “Ring” cycle with the NDR Symphony Orchestra Hamburg; conducted Tchaikovsky at the Orchestre National de Lyon; and directed Bruckner symphonies with the Munich Philharmonic and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, where he serves as Conductor Laureate. Closer to home, he led the orchestra of the Juilliard School in Bruckner at Carnegie Hall. Besides regularly leading such world-class ensembles as the Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lyon, and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Gilbert is also an accomplished opera conductor; he was the inaugural music director of Santa Fe Opera, and has led productions at the Los Angeles Opera, Royal Swedish Opera, and Zurich Opera.
Landmark educational initiatives in New York, Santa Barbara, and Shanghai
As the first holder of the Juilliard School’s William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies since 2009, and its Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies since 2011, Gilbert is the principal teacher for all conducting majors at the celebrated New York conservatory. His commitment to the younger generation has also initiated two innovative educational New York Philharmonic partnerships. Next summer the orchestra looks forward to its first Shanghai performance residency, as part of a four-year educational collaboration with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and Shanghai Conservatory that includes the establishment of the Shanghai Orchestra Academy (SOA), an education platform designed to train professional orchestral musicians at the highest level. Similarly, the Philharmonic recently launched a new partnership, the first training program of its kind in the U.S., with Santa Barbara’s Music Academy of the West, and this winter Gilbert and the orchestra will offer a ten-day full-immersion apprenticeship program to select Academy Fellows. As the Los Angeles Times reports, “Gilbert has a devotion to young players. The 47-year-old New Yorker runs the conducting program at the Juilliard School, and he has made the New York Philharmonic’s educational activities a priority.”