The New York Philharmonic

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Memorial Day Concert at St. John the Divine
This concert is now past.
Location: The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine   (Directions)
Price Range: Free
 
Mon, May, 26, 2014
8:00 PM

Admission to this performance is free. Tickets are required and will be distributed at 6:00 p.m. the evening of the concert. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

The audio of the performance will be broadcast onto the adjacent Pulpit Green, weather permitting. The program will be presented without intermission.

Alan Gilbert

Program

  (Click the red play button to listen)

CARL NIELSEN (1865–1931)
Helios Overture (1903)

Helios (Greek for “sun”) was the god of the sun. With fiery steeds he rides his golden chariot across the skies, ascending in the east and setting in the sea in the west. Like the mythological character represented, Nielsen’s Helios Overture has grand qualities; its score is a showpiece for orchestra. Here is how Nielsen described it to a friend: “My overture is in praise and honor of the sun. It begins very softly with some low notes in the bass, then is joined by several more instruments, and the horns give out a rather solemn morning hymn. Now the sun rises high in the sky until the midday light is almost blinding and everything is bathed in a sea of light, making almost all living creatures feel sleepy and lazy. Finally it sinks slowly and splendidly behind the distant blue mountains, far down in the west.” The solar majesty of this work is reflected in the exultant scoring for horns, rising to an exhilarating climax before dying away.

PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)
Symphony No. 5 (1888)

Guilt about his homosexuality and the brief, disastrous marriage he had embarked on to hide it had already found expression in Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. Eleven years later, he confessed to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck: “Now I shall work my hardest. I am exceedingly anxious to prove to myself, as to others, that I am not played out as a composer. … Have I told you that I intend to write a symphony?” Ever the fragile, self-doubting composer, Tchaikovsky saw himself as a plaything of fate, struggling for happiness. While sketching ideas for the Fifth he noted: “Introduction. Complete submission before Fate — or, what is the same thing, the inscrutable designs of Providence. Allegro. Murmurs, doubts, laments, reproaches against ... XXX [which some feel is Tchaikovsky’s code for his homosexuality].” Even after this symphony’s successful St. Petersburg premiere and the orchestra’s triple fanfare in his honor, Tchaikovsky wrote, “I have come to the conclusion that [the Fifth Symphony] is a failure. The applause and ovations referred not to this but to other works of mine, and the Symphony itself will never please the public.” He couldn’t have been more wrong. To this day the glorious melodies of his emotionally-charged, “heart-on-sleeve” music never cease to thrill audiences, no matter what the composer himself feared or what unkind critics said. Throughout the work, Tchaikovsky employs a motive that is usually taken to symbolize “Fate” or “Providence,” presented in a variety of guises — from subdued to ominous to exultant — as the symphony unfolds. It appears that he has triumphed over fate, as thunderous brass and timpani bring this masterpiece home.

Artists

Alan Gilbert

New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert began his tenure in September 2009. The first native New Yorker to hold the post, he has sought to make the Orchestra a point of pride for the city and country. As New York magazine wrote, “The Philharmonic and its music director Alan Gilbert have turned themselves into a force of permanent revolution.”

Mr. Gilbert and the Philharmonic have forged artistic partnerships, introducing the positions of The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence and The Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence, held in the 2014–15 season by Christopher Rouse and violinist Lisa Batiashvili, respectively, as well as the new position of Artist-in-Association, inaugurated by Inon Barnatan this season; an annual festival, which this season is Dohnányi / Dvořák; CONTACT!, the new-music series; and the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, an exploration of today’s music by a wide range of contemporary and modern composers inaugurated in spring 2014.

In the 2014–15 season Alan Gilbert conducts the U.S. Premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Clarinet Concerto, a Philharmonic co-commission, alongside Mahler’s First Symphony; La Dolce Vita: The Music of Italian Cinema with Joshua Bell, Renée Fleming, and Josh Groban; Verdi’s Requiem; a staging of Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake featuring Oscar winner Marion Cotillard; World Premieres by John Adams, Peter Eötvös, and Christopher Rouse; works by contemporary Nordic composers during CONTACT!; and the Silk Road Ensemble and Yo-Yo Ma’s 15th-anniversary celebration. He concludes The Nielsen Project, the multi-year initiative to perform and record the Danish composer’s symphonies and concertos, the first release of which was named by The New York Times as among the Best Classical Music Recordings of 2012. The Music Director presides over the EUROPE / SPRING 2015 tour with stops including London, featuring Giants Are Small’s theatrical reimagining of Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka as part of the Orchestra’s second International Associate residency at the Barbican Centre; Cologne, where he leads the World Premiere of Peter Eötvös’s Senza sangue, a Philharmonic co-commission; and returns to Dublin and Paris.


Last season’s highlights included the inaugural NY PHIL BIENNIAL; Mozart’s three final symphonies; the U.S. Premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Frieze coupled with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; World Premieres; an all-Britten program celebrating the composer’s centennial; the score from 2001: A Space Odyssey as the film was screened; the ASIA / WINTER 2014 tour; and a staged production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd starring Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson. High points of Mr. Gilbert’s first four Philharmonic seasons included the critically celebrated productions of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre (2010) and Janácek’s Cunning Little Vixen (2011) — both cited as the top cultural events of their respective years — as well as Philharmonic 360 (2012), the acclaimed spatial music program featuring Stockhausen’s Gruppen, and A Dancer’s Dream: Two Ballets by Stravinsky (2013, and later presented in movie theaters internationally). Other highlights included World Premieres of works by Magnus Lindberg, John Corigliano, Christopher Rouse, and composers featured on CONTACT!; Mahler’s Second Symphony, Resurrection, on A Concert for New York on September 10; Mr. Gilbert’s Philharmonic debut as violin soloist in J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins; five concerts at Carnegie Hall; six tours to Europe; and the Asia Horizons tour.

In September 2011 Alan Gilbert became Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies at The Juilliard School, where he is also the first holder of Juilliard’s William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies. Conductor laureate of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and principal guest conductor of Hamburg’s NDR Symphony Orchestra, he regularly conducts leading orchestras nationally and internationally, such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Orchestra della Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and Orchestre de Paris. His 2014–15 season engagements include appearances with Leipzig’s Gewandhaus Orchestra, opening its season and on tour; The Philadelphia Orchestra; Munich Philharmonic; Berlin Philharmonic; NDR Symphony Orchestra; and Mozart’s Don Giovanni at The Metropolitan Opera in February 2015.

Alan Gilbert made his acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut in 2008 leading John Adams’s Doctor Atomic; the DVD and Blu-ray of this production received the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. Renée Fleming’s recent Decca recording Poèmes, on which he conducted, received a 2013 Grammy Award. Earlier releases garnered Grammy Award nominations and top honors from the Chicago Tribune and Gramophone magazine.


Mr. Gilbert studied at Harvard University, The Curtis Institute of Music, and Juilliard and was assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra (1995–97). In May 2010 he received an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from Curtis, and in December 2011 he received Columbia University’s Ditson Conductor’s Award for his “exceptional commitment to the performance of works by American composers and to contemporary music.” In 2014 he was elected to The American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Visit Alan Gilbert's Official Website

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Concert Duration

1 hour

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Special Thanks

This performance has been made possible with generous support from the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation.

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