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The Bach Variations: Alan Gilbert Conducts Bach's B Minor Mass

This concert is now past.
Alan Gilbert
Location: Avery Fisher Hall (Directions)
Price Range: $29.00 - $99.00

Concert Duration

2 hours with intermission
Wed, Mar, 13, 2013
7:30 PM
Thu, Mar, 14, 2013
7:30 PM
Fri, Mar, 15, 2013
8:00 PM
Sat, Mar, 16, 2013
8:00 PM

To view more concerts like these, go to
The Bach Variations: A Philharmonic Festival

The 2014-15 Season

Program (Click the red play button to listen)


Mass in B Minor

Mass in B Minor, BWV 232 (1733-1749)

The 27-movement Mass in B Minor, possibly the grandest setting of the Mass ever composed, clocks in at about 2 hours. Johann Sebastian Bach's genius is so brilliantly displayed in this work that attempting to describe it in just a few words is futile. It must be heard — many times — to take in its magnificence, genius, creativity, and spirituality. Bach never heard it in his lifetime and, incredibly, the entire work was not performed until 1859, more than a century after his death. The Mass in B Minor was never intended to be part of any religious occasion — i.e., it was not for "practical" use in either Roman Catholic or Lutheran services; it was too vast for that. It was, rather, a composite of what an "ideal" Mass might be. Bach compiled it over a period of about two decades. In 1733 Bach composed a massive 12-part Kyrie and Gloria (called a Missa) and presented them to the new Elector of Saxony, August III, in hopes of being appointed Hofcompositeur at the Dresden court — a title he was granted after a second try in 1736; but he remained in Leipzig. Some years later he began repurposing some of his best cantata movements, as a kind of legacy in the service of God. Thus he created the Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei, now believed to have been written in 1748-49, and the Mass, as he finally conceived it, became a wholly Catholic Mass. He composed in a variety of styles, some going back to an earlier time — Renaissance counterpoint and Gregorian chant, for example, and Baroque dance movements; and reaching to other countries as well. Still, its musical logic and master plan work. The scoring is opulent, requiring five vocal soloists (expanded to six and eight in two other movements), chorus, and orchestra, with the major sections of the liturgical texts divided into smaller segments and treated like self-contained arias, duets, or choruses. Bach's craftsmanship is astonishing, but never at the expense of the range and depth of expression, and the development of the material is sophisticated and often ingenious. And one can only admire how he cleverly uses techniques that musically underscore the meaning of the text. The Mass's pivot point is the Credo, whose eight parts are also created in the form of an arch, and whose three central movements relate to the basic Christian tenets — Christ's incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. The Mass in B Minor, with its sublimity and grandeur, is truly the zenith of sacred music — a work for all time and eternity.


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 Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen (2011) — both cited as the top cultural events of their respective years — as well as Philharmonic 360 at Park Avenue Armory (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.

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 Philharmonique de Radio France. He has appeared at The Metropolitan, Los Angeles, Zurich, Royal Swedish, and Santa Fe opera companies. In 2014–15 he conducts the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra’s season-opening concerts and on tour in Lucerne, Berlin, and London; Mozart’s Don Giovanni at The Metropolitan Opera; and The Philadelphia, Munich Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, and NDR Symphony orchestras.

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. He 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

Learn more about Alan Gilbert



Dorothea Roschmann by Jim Rakete

Born in Flensburg, Germany, soprano Dorothea Röschmann made her critically acclaimed debut at the 1995 Salzburg Festival as Susanna in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro with conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and has since returned frequently to the festival. At The Metropolitan Opera she has sung the Mozartean roles of Susanna, Pamina (The Magic Flute), Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), and Ilia (Idomeneo) with James Levine. Her roles at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, have included Pamina and Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte) with Sir Colin Davis, and Countess Almaviva (The Marriage of Figaro) with Antonio Pappano. She has also appeared at the Vienna Staatsoper, Munich's Bavarian Staatsoper, Berlin's Deutsche Staatsoper, Brussels's Théâtre de la Monnaie, and Paris's Opéra Bastille. Future engagements include her debut at Milan's Teatro alla Scala, and returns to the Salzburg Festival, Deutsche Staatsoper, and the Bavarian Staatsoper.

Recent concert engagements include appearances with the Concentus Musicus Wien and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe with Harnoncourt; the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala with Daniel Barenboim; and the Vienna Philharmonic with Pierre Boulez. Her many recitals include performances in Antwerp, Lisbon, Madrid, Cologne, Brussels, New York, London, and Vienna, and at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw and the Edinburgh, Munich, and Schwarzenberg festivals. She has recorded opera roles by Mozart and Puccini; R. Strauss's Four Last Songs; Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem (Grammy and Gramophone Awards); Mahler's Symphony No. 4; Pergolesi's Stabat Mater; and a disc of Schumann songs with tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Graham Johnson. She appeared with the New York Philharmonic in the A Concert for New York performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, conducted by Alan Gilbert, in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of 9/11; the concert was telecast internationally and is available on DVD.

Learn more about Dorothea Röschmann



Anne Sophie von Otter by Mats Backer

Internationally acclaimed Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter has long been considered one of the finest singers of her generation. Her lengthy and exclusive relationship with Deutsche Grammophon has produced numerous recordings and awards, including an International Record Critics’ Award (Recording Artist of the Year), a Grammy Award (Best Classical Vocal Performance, for Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn), and a Diapason d’Or (for a recording of Swedish songs with her long-time accompanist, Bengt Forsberg).

Ms. von Otter is acclaimed for her performances as Octavian in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, in which she has appeared at the Bavarian Staatsoper, Opéra national de Paris, Vienna Staatsoper, and Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. She also appeared in the role with James Levine and The Metropolitan Opera and in Japan under Carlos Kleiber, a performance made available on DVD. Other opera recordings include Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro under Levine; Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice and Mozart’s Idomeneo and La clemenza di Tito under John Eliot Gardiner; Handel’s Ariodante and Hercules under Marc Minkowski; and Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos under Giuseppe Sinopoli.

Recent opera highlights have included the roles of Clytemnestre (in Gluck’s Iphigenie en Aulide) for De Nederlandse Opera, Geneviève (Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande) for Opéra national de Paris , Countess Geschwitz (Berg’s Lulu) at the Metropolitan Opera, and her role debut as Charpentier’s Médeé at Oper Frankfurt. She appeared in Handel’s Giulio Cesare at the 2012 Salzburg Festival alongside Cecilia Bartoli and Andreas Scholl.

Anne Sofie von Otter’s  2014–15 season highlights include Clairon (Strauss’s Capriccio) with Lyric Opera of Chicago under Sir Andrew Davis, and Begbick (Weill’s The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny) at Covent Garden under Mark Wigglesworth. In January 2015 she will make a U.S. recital tour with Angela Hewitt, with visits to Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Tucson, and Boston.

Learn more about Anne Sofie von Otter



Steve Davislim

Tenor Steve Davislim began his musical training as a horn player before studying voice at the Victorian College of the Arts with Dame Joan Hammond. Twice awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Award and Australia Council scholarship, he began his professional career as an ensemble member of the Zurich Opera. A turning point in his career was his interpretation of Mozart's Idomeneo at the opening of Milan's Teatro alla Scala in 2005, conducted by Daniel Harding. He returned to La Scala in 2007 to sing the title role in the world premiere of Fabio Vacchi's Teneke, under Roberto Abbado, and Tamino in Mozart's The Magic Flute in 2011.

Mr. Davislim has performed with leading ensembles, including the Vienna Philharmonic, The Cleveland and Royal Danish Orchestras, and the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, Chicago, London, Zurich, Vienna, Turin, Madrid, Dresden, Paris, Rome (Santa Cecilia), and Brussels; he has appeared at the Lincoln Center, Mostly Mozart, Salzburg, and Lucerne festivals. Recently he performed Haydn's Creation with William Christie on tour, Tippett's A Child of Our Time with Sir Colin Davis at London's Barbican Centre, J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion in Munich and Boston with Bernard Haitink, and Handel's Messiah with the New York Philharmonic and in Washington, D.C. Mr. Davislim's recent engagements include Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the Melbourne Symphony, London Symphony, and Radio France orchestras; Chausson's Poème de l'amour et de la mer with the Queensland Symphony; Schubert's Lazarus with the Deutsche Symphony Berlin; Vicente Martín y Soler's L'Arbore di Diana at the Montpellier Festival; and Dvorák's Stabat Mater with the National Symphony Orchestra. He made his Dresden debut as Titus in Mozart's La clemenza di Tito at the Semperoper.

Learn more about Steve Davislim



Eric Owens

Acclaimed for his commanding stage presence and inventive artistry, bass-baritone Eric Owens has carved a place on the opera stage as both a champion of new music and an impressive interpreter of classic works. He is equally at home in concert, recital, and opera performances, bringing his poise, expansive voice, and instinctive acting to stages around the globe.

Mr. Owens's career-making role was the title character in the world premiere of Elliot Goldenthal's Grendel with the Los Angeles Opera and Lincoln Center Festival, in a production directed and designed by Julie Taymor. Last season his portrayal of Alberich in Wagner's Das Rheingold at The Metropolitan Opera garnered universal praise. Mr. Owens created the roles of General Leslie Groves in Doctor Atomic and The Storyteller in A Flowering Tree, both by John Adams. He made his Boston Symphony Orchestra debut under the baton of David Robertson in Adams's El Niño.

Operatic highlights include debuts with the San Francisco Opera in Verdi's Otello; Royal Opera, Covent Garden, in Bellini's Norma, and Verdi's Rigoletto and Il Trovatore; Puccini's La Bohème at Los Angeles Opera; Mozart's The Magic Flute at Paris Opèra; Handel's Ariodante and L'incoronazione di Poppea at English National Opera; and the role of Aristotle Onassis in the world premiere of Michael Daugherty's Jackie O at Houston Grand Opera (recording available on the Argo label). He is featured on Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's recordings of Mozart's Requiem and scenes from Richard Strauss's Elektra and Die Frau ohne Schatten (Telarc).

This season Mr. Owens appears in recital with conductor Robert Spano at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall, and with The Cleveland Orchestra in a concert version of Salome, Boston Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven's Missa solemnis, National Arts Centre Orchestra in Verdi's Requiem, and in A Flowering Tree with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. This summer Mr. Owens will serve as artist-in-residence at the Glimmerglass Festival.

Learn more about Eric Owens



New York Choral Artists, a professional chorus founded and directed by Joseph Flummerfelt, has been heard with the New York Philharmonic in recent seasons performing repertoire ranging from Tippett’s A Child of Our Time to Mozart’s Requiem. The chorus opened the Philharmonic’s 2002–03 subscription season performing the World Premiere of John Adams’s On the Transmigration of Souls, commissioned by the Philharmonic with Lincoln Center’s Great Performers. Other highlights of the group’s history include the 1995 Philharmonic concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, and a televised performance of the 1986 Statue of Liberty Concert in Central Park. The chorus performed Britten’s War Requiem and Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 during Lorin Maazel’s final weeks as Music Director, and has more recently collaborated with Music Director Alan Gilbert on Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, Bach’s B-minor Mass, and Britten’s Spring Symphony in the concerts celebrating the British composer’s centennial.

Learn more about New York Choral Artists



Joseph Flummerfelt

For more than 40 seasons Joseph Flummerfelt has been preparing choral performances for the New York Philharmonic. Named Conductor of the Year in 2004 by Musical America, he is founder and musical director of the New York Choral Artists and an artistic director of Spoleto Festival U.S.A. He was conductor of the Westminster Choir for 33 years. He has collaborated with such conductors as Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Chailly, Sir Colin Davis, Alan Gilbert, Carlo Maria Giulini, Lorin Maazel, Kurt Masur, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Robert Shaw, and William Steinberg. His choirs have been featured on 45 recordings, including Grammy Award–winning versions of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with Bernstein, Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra, and John Adams’s On the Transmigration of Souls. He has also received two Grammy nominations, and his Delos recording of Brahms’s choral works, Singing for Pleasure, with the Westminster Choir, was chosen by The New York Times as a favorite among Brahms recordings. Mr. Flummerfelt’s honors include Le Prix du Président de la République from L’Académie du Disque Français and four honorary doctoral degrees. He is sought out as a guest conductor and master teacher of choral conducting in New York and throughout the United States.

Learn more about Joseph Flummerfelt

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