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Brahms, Bloch, and Rouse

This concert is now past.
Alan Gilbert
Location: Avery Fisher Hall (Directions)
Price Range: $41.00 - $123.00

Concert Duration

2 hours
Thu, Feb, 21, 2013
7:30 PM
Fri, Feb, 22, 2013
11:00 AM
The 2014-15 Season

Program (Click the red play button to listen)



Phantasmata (1981-1985)

It's always fascinating to delve into the provenance and meaning of the titles Christopher Rouse gives his works. The Pulitzer Prize–winning American composer explains that Phantasmata comes from the German–Swiss physician and occultist Paracelsus (1493–1541), who defined the word as "hallucinations created by thought." Christopher Rouse created Phantasmata on commission from the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, where it was premiered in October 1986 with Leonard Slatkin on the podium. The piece really began with what became Phantasmata's middle movement, "The Infernal Machine," which fellow–composer Joseph Schwantner advised him could be part of a larger work. Four years later Christopher Rouse had added a first and third movement, called respectively "The Evestrum of Juan de la Cruz in the Sagrada Familia, 3 A.M." and "Bump." He explains that the first movement title "also makes use of Paracelsian terminology — 'evestrum' is Paracelsus' name for the astral body; thus, this opening movement represents a dreamt out–of–body 'somnambulatory journey' through Antoni Gaudí's remarkable Cathedral of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona." The movement is scored for strings and percussion. "The Infernal Machine," as the name suggests, "constitutes a darker hallucinatory image, as the immense juggernaut, eternally in motion for no particular purpose, is represented by a perpetuum mobile wherein the leviathan sometimes whirs along in mercurially unconcerned fashion but at others groans or throws off slightly hellish sparks, grinding occasionally as it changes gears." And the finale, "Bump," is described as a "nightmare conga," which, Rouse humorously suggest, might make one think of "a gala Boston Pops performance in Hell." The 18–minute Phantasmata promises a unique musical adventure from this important composer of our time, about whom the Baltimore Sun wrote: "When the music history of the late 20th century is written I suspect the explosive and passionate music of Rouse will loom large."


ERNEST BLOCH (1880-1959)
Schelomo — A Hebrew Rhapsody (1916)

Profoundly affected by the outbreak of World War I, Ernest Bloch sought solace in composing a work inspired by the Old Testament's book Ecclesiastes, in particular 1:2-9, in which King Solomon laments the ways of the world. It reads in part: "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity./What profit hath man of all his labor/Wherein he laboreth under the sun?/One generation passeth away and another generation cometh;/And the earth abideth forever./The sun also ariseth,/And the sun goeth down/ ... And there is nothing new under the sun." Bloch had originally envisioned a setting for voice and orchestra. But not finding the right language for the text, and later meeting cellist Alexander Barjansky, he decided that the cello would better suit his purpose. The composer felt it was an "infinitely grander and more profound voice that could speak all languages," and it freed him from the limitations of words. Barjansky was familiar with and especially admired the works in Bloch's "Jewish Cycle" (i.e., Jewish Poems, the Israel Symphony, and the Psalms). He immediately set to work, giving Barjansky the solo parts for the rhapsody as he completed each section. In Shelomo, the cello majestically represents Solomon, and the orchestra symbolizes the world around him. The work is in three sections, and each providing the cello opportunities to shine in extended solo passages and cadenzas, as well as to display its introspective nature, with each leading to an impassioned orchestral climax. In composing, Bloch said, "it is not my purpose, nor my desire, to attempt a 'Reconstitution' of Jewish music, or to base my work on melodies more or less authentic. I am not an archaeologist. I hold it of first importance to write good, genuine music. It is the Jewish soul that interests me, the complex, ardent, agitated soul that vibrates for me in the Bible." And in that, perhaps, lies the deep spirituality and expressiveness of this fervent meditation.

Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68

Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68 Symphony No. 1 (1876)

Robert Schumann famously anointed the 20-year old Johannes Brahms as Beethoven's heir apparent — a burden he wasn't able to lay down till he was 43. Believing that a symphony was the standard by which a composer is judged, and having heard Beethoven's Ninth for the first time in the mid–1850s, he lamented as late as 1870, "I shall never write a symphony! You have no idea what it feels to the likes of us always to hear the footsteps of a giant like that marching behind us." Interestingly enough, though Brahms composed a number of orchestral compositions that found their way into other works (viewed by some as "practice runs"), he picked up and worked on this symphony for years without completing it. In 1876 he finally overcame the fear of inevitable comparison with Beethoven and gave the world his long–awaited First Symphony. And while it was very much Brahms's own voice that spoke so eloquently in this work, conductor Hans von Bülow couldn't resist calling it "Beethoven's Tenth." Moreover, the redoubtable music critic Eduard Hanslick (who, as a member of the pro–Brahms faction, was making life hell for Wagner and Wagner aficionados — the opposing faction) praised Brahms, saying: "Seldom, if ever, has the entire musical world awaited a composer's first symphony with such tense anticipation — testimony that the unusual was expected of Brahms in this supreme and ultimately difficult form ..." From the dramatic, insistent C Minor pulse of the introduction, sounded by the timpani and lower–voiced instruments, to the brilliant brightness of the C Major horn calls in the Allegro, there is no doubt that this gripping masterpiece was worth waiting for.


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



Jan Vogler by Mat Hennek

Cellist Jan Vogler has appeared with internationally renowned orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Dresden Staatskapelle, and the Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, Montreal, Cincinnati, Bavarian Radio, and Vienna symphony orchestras. He regularly performs recitals and chamber concerts with pianists Hélène Grimaud and Martin Stadfeld and violinist Mira Wang. Mr. Vogler embraces traditional repertoire as well as the work of his contemporaries, and has recently premiered works by Tigran Mansurian with the WDR Symphony Orchestra, John Harbison with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Udo Zimmermann with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Following summer performances at the Moritzburg Chamber Music Festival, Mr. Vogler's 2011–12 season features appearances with the Mariinsky Orchestra and Valery Gergiev, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and Fabio Luisi, Munich Philharmonic and Lorin Maazel, and the Czech Philharmonic, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and Curtis Symphony. He also performs at Prague's Dvořák Festival, Paris's Cité de la Musique and Salle Pleyel, and on tour in Germany with the New York-based orchestra The Knights.

Mr. Vogler records exclusively for SONY Classical; in July 2011 he released an all-Schubert recording with the Moritzburg Festival, and is scheduled to release the complete Bach cello suites soon. My Tunes 2 features works by Paganini, Kreisler, Rimsky-Korsakov, Fauré, and Wagner. Other recent recordings include Experience: Live from New York, recorded at Le Poisson Rouse, featuring works by Shostakovich and Machine Gun, by Jimi Hendrix, and the multiple award-winning The Secrets of Dvořák's Cello Concerto with the New York Philharmonic conducted by David Robertson. Mr. Vogler can also be heard performing music ranging from Mendelssohn to Elliott Carter on labels including NEOS and Berlin Classics.

A cello prodigy at age six, Jan Vogler first studied with his father, Peter Vogler, and subsequently with Josef Schwab, Heinrich Schiff, and Siegfried Palm. At the age of 20 he became principal cello of the Dresden Staatskapelle. He has won the Echo-Award and the 2006 European Cultural Award. He is general director of the Dresden Musikfestspiele and founder and artistic director of the Moritzburg Chamber Music Festival.

Mr. Vogler plays the 1721 Domenico Montagnana cello "Ex-Hekking."

Learn more about Jan Vogler

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Special Thanks

Christopher Rouse is The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence.


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