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Gilbert Conducts Nielsen

This concert is now past.
Alan Gilbert
Location: Avery Fisher Hall (Directions)
Price Range: $39.00 - $59.00

Concert Duration

1 hour 45 minutes
Wed, Mar, 12, 2014
7:30 PM
Thu, Mar, 13, 2014
7:30 PM
Fri, Mar, 14, 2014
2:00 PM
Sat, Mar, 15, 2014
8:00 PM

Alan Gilbert believes that every music lover should know Carl Nielsen (1865–1931). That is why he has spearheaded The Nielsen Project, a multi-season survey of the six symphonies and three concertos by Denmark’s beloved composer through performances by the New York Philharmonic, recorded on Denmark’s Dacapo label.

The 2014-15 Season

Program (Click the red play button to listen)


Helios Overture

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.


Symphony No. 1

CARL NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Symphony No. 1 (1891-92)

Leonard Bernstein, quoted in The New York Times, said of Carl Nielsen’s music: “I think many people are in for pleasant surprises as they get to know Nielsen: his rough charm, his swing, his drive, his rhythmic surprises, his strange power of harmonic and tonal relationships—and especially his constant unpredictability—all are irresistible.” Best known for his symphonies, Carl Nielsen is Denmark’s most lauded composer. His father was a musician who played cornet and violin at various village events in their small island community; he passed along to his son Carl (one of 12 children) some of the fundamentals of music, but Nielsen taught himself piano and later played trombone and bugle in a military band. His further musical education included attending the Copenhagen Conservatory and studies in Germany. Thereafter he joined the second violin section of the Royal Chapel orchestra. The First Symphony was the notable debut in the genre for the then-27 year-old composer, and he dedicated it to his wife, the sculptor Anne-Marie Carl-Nielsen. The composer himself was among the second violins at the 1894 premiere, which was attended by the King and Queen of Denmark. The beautifully-crafted  opening movement, curiously marked “Allegro orgoglioso” (“proudly”) has an exciting urgency in its headlong rush; by contrast, the second movement displays long-breathed sweeping lines with brasses ringing out majestically. The work ends with powerful declamations, leaving no doubt that Nielsen was a fresh new Nordic voice on the symphonic horizon.

Symphony No. 4, The Inextinguishable

Nielsen completed his Symphony No. 4, The Inextinguishable, in 1916. The work, composed in the midst of World War I, is centered on the idea that “Music is Life, and inextinguishable like it.” Upon commencing his composition, the composer wrote that it wasn’t programmatic, but would “express what we understand by the spirit of life or manifestations of life, that is: everything that moves, that wants to live ... just life and motion, though varied — very varied — yet connected, and as if constantly on the move, in one big movement or stream.” Leonard Bernstein led the Orchestra’s first presentation of the Fourth Symphony in 1970; Sakari Oramo conducted its most recent performances in 2002.



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.

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