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Alan Gilbert conducts Inon Barnatan, Salonen, Ravel, Debussy, and R. Strauss

Recorded March 19, 2015

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Conductor

Alan Gilbert

The 2016–17 season marks Alan Gilbert’s eighth and final season as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. 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. The Financial Times called him “the imaginative maestro-impresario in residence.”

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 2016–17 season by Esa-Pekka Salonen and violinist Leonidas Kavakos, respectively — as well as Artist-in-Association, currently held by pianist Inon Barnatan, who inaugurated the role in the 2014–15 season; an annual festival, which this season is Beloved Friend — Tchaikovsky and His World, featuring Russian-born Semyon Bychkov conducting works by Tchaikovsky as well as composers he was influenced by and whom he influenced; 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. During his tenure the Philharmonic launched the New York Philharmonic Global Academy, partnerships with cultural institutions to offer training of pre-professional musicians, often alongside performance residencies. These include the Shanghai Orchestra Academy and Residency Partnership and collaborations with Santa Barbara’s Music Academy of the West and the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. Alan Gilbert and the Philharmonic also launched a five-year partnership with the University Musical Society at the University of Michigan.

Alan Gilbert concludes his final season as Music Director with four programs that reflect signature themes of his tenure, featuring works that hold particular meaning for him and musicians with whom he has formed close relationships. These include a pairing of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw; Wagner’s complete Das Rheingold in concert; the New York Premiere of Composer-in-Residence Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Wing on Wing alongside Artist-in-Residence Leonidas Kavakos in Brahms’s Violin Concerto and the New York Premiere of Aeriality by Anna Thorvaldsdottir, the second Kravis Emerging Composer, an honor introduced during Alan Gilbert’s tenure; and an exploration of how music can effect positive change in the world. Other 2016–17 season highlights include three World Premieres; Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, From the New World, as part of the New York Philharmonic’s 175th anniversary celebrations; Mahler’s Fourth Symphony and Handel’s Messiah; the World Premiere presentation of Gershwin’s score to Manhattan, performed live to the film; Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre; a concert with friends celebrating his 50th birthday; works by John Adams marking the composer’s 70th birthday; and the EUROPE / SPRING 2017 tour. As part of the New York Philharmonic Global Academy, he will lead the Orchestra in its third annual performance residency through the Shanghai Orchestra Academy and Residency Partnership, and will lead the Philharmonic and Academy Festival Orchestra together in Santa Barbara through the partnership with Santa Barbara’s Music Academy of the West.

Last season’s Philharmonic highlights included R. Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben to welcome newly appointed Concertmaster Frank Huang; Carnegie Hall’s 125th anniversary Opening Night Gala; premieres by William Bolcom, Franck Krawczyk, Magnus Lindberg, and Marc Neikrug; works by Sibelius in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth; as well as Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and an all-Mozart program. He also co-curated the second NY PHIL BIENNIAL — during which he conducted works by Boulez and Stucky, in tribute to the late composers, as well as premieres by William Bolcom, John Corigliano, and Per Nørgård, the second recipient of The Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music at the New York Philharmonic, an honor introduced during Alan Gilbert’s tenure. The Music Director also performed violin in Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time alongside Philharmonic principals and Mr. Barnatan. Under the New York Philharmonic Global Academy he led the Orchestra in its second performance residency in Shanghai and made his second appearance conducting the Music Academy of the West’s Academy Festival Orchestra.

Previous high points among Mr. Gilbert’s Philharmonic appearances include critically celebrated staged productions such as 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; Philharmonic 360 at Park Avenue Armory (2012), the acclaimed spatial music program featuring Stockhausen’s Gruppen; A Dancer’s Dream: Two Works by Stravinsky (2013, and later presented in movie theaters internationally); a staged production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd starring Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson that was broadcast on Live From Lincoln Center, earning Mr. Gilbert an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Music Direction (2014); and the U.S. Premiere of a staging of Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake featuring Oscar winner Marion Cotillard (2015). Other highlights include the first two editions of the NY PHIL BIENNIAL; World Premieres of works by Christopher Rouse, Magnus Lindberg, Peter Eötvös , and composers featured on CONTACT!; the score from 2001: A Space Odyssey, performed live to the film; Mahler’s Second Symphony, Resurrection, on A Concert for New York on September 10; the Verdi Requiem; the conclusion of The Nielsen Project, the multi-year initiative to perform and record the Danish composer’s symphonies and concertos; Mr. Gilbert’s Philharmonic debut as violin soloist in J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins; six concerts at Carnegie Hall; and ten tours around the world. In August 2015 he led the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in the U.S. Stage Premiere of George Benjamin’s Written on Skin, co-presented by the New York Philharmonic and Lincoln Center, the inaugural production of the Lincoln Center–New York Philharmonic Opera Initiative.

Conductor laureate of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and former principal guest conductor of Hamburg’s NDR Symphony Orchestra, he regularly conducts leading orchestras nationally and internationally, such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra dell’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. This season Mr. Gilbert returns to the foremost European orchestras, records Beethoven’s complete piano concertos with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and Inon Barnatan, and conducts Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, his first time leading a staged opera there.

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 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. He received his second Emmy nomination for Outstanding Music Direction for Sinatra: Voice for a Century, broadcast on Live From Lincoln Center in 2015. Mr. Gilbert conducted Messiaen’s Des Canyons aux étoiles on a recent album recorded live at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.

Alan Gilbert studied at Harvard University, The Curtis Institute of Music, and Juilliard and was assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra (1995–97). He received Honorary Doctor of Music degrees from Curtis in May 2010 and from Westminster Choir College in May 2016, 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, in 2015 he received a Foreign Policy Association Medal for his commitment to cultural diplomacy and was named Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in 2016 he received New York University’s Lewis Rudin Award for Exemplary Service to New York City in recognition of his leadership in making New York one of the world’s great centers for music and the arts.

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Piano

Inon Barnatan

Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan is a recipient of both the Avery Fisher Career Grant and Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award. He has performed extensively with many of the world’s foremost orchestras, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras, San Francisco Symphony, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Royal Stockholm Symphony Orchestra, and Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Orchestra. He has worked with such conductors as Gustavo Dudamel, James Gaffigan, Susanna Mälkki, Matthias Pintscher, David Robertson, Thomas Søndergård, Michael Tilson Thomas, Edo de Waart, Pinchas Zukerman, and Jaap van Zweden. Passionate about contemporary music, the pianist has premiered new works composed for him by Matthias Pintscher, Sebastian Currier, and Avner Dorman.

In 2016–17 Inon Barnatan enters his third and final season as the New York Philharmonic’s inaugural Artist-in-Association, a position created to spotlight an emerging artist over the course of three seasons through both concerto and chamber music performances and by cultivating a relationship among the artist, the Orchestra, and the audience. He also makes debuts with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, led by New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert; Chicago Symphony Orchestra, led by Jesús López-Cobos; Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, led by Vasily Petrenko; and the Seattle Symphony, led by Ludovic Morlot. In addition to returning to the New York Philharmonic under Manfred Honeck, he embarks on three tours: of the U.S., with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields; of Europe, with cellist Alisa Weilerstein, his frequent recital partner; and of the U.S. again, performing a trio program with Ms. Weilerstein and Philharmonic Principal Clarinet Anthony McGill.

Inon Barnatan’s critically acclaimed discography includes Avie and Bridge recordings of Schubert’s solo piano works, as well as Darknesse Visible, which made The New York Times’s “Best of 2012” list. Last season he released Rachmaninov & Chopin: Cello Sonatas on Decca Classics with Ms. Weilerstein. 

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Nyx

ESA-PEKKA SALONEN (b. 1958)
Nyx (2010)

The composer’s notes about Nyx, Greek goddess of night, state, in part: “Nyx is a shadowy figure in Greek mythology; … we have no sense of her character or personality…. I’m not trying to describe this mythical goddess in any precise way musically. However, the almost constant flickering and rapid changing of textures and moods as well as a certain elusive character of many musical gestures may well be related to the subject. Nyx … employs a large orchestra, and has exposed concertante parts for solo clarinet and the horn section…. Its themes and ideas essentially keep their properties throughout the piece while the environment surrounding them keeps changing constantly. Mere whispers grow into roar; an intimate line of the solo clarinet becomes a slowly breathing broad melody of tutti strings.” Allmusic.com calls Nyx “a tour de force … a darkly brilliant score,” influenced by Sibelius, with whom Salonen “shares much of the master’s sensitivity to low timbres and evocative use of effects to create vivid musical images.” The Los Angeles Times considered the work “splendid.”

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Piano Concerto in G major

MAURICE RAVEL (1875–1937)
Piano Concerto in G major (1929–31)

Ravel returned to France from his successful 1928 American concert tour (where he and George Gershwin had visited Harlem jazz clubs together) and began composing this G-minor Piano Concerto. Not surprisingly, it carries the imprint of the jazz craze then sweeping this country and Europe. A bracing whack from the “slap stick” or “whip” in the percussion section sends piano and orchestra off on an effervescent romp. The slightly offbeat main theme of the opening Allegramente is played first by the piccolo and then echoed by the trumpet, with the piano all the while showing off with glissandos and arpeggios. Ravel himself was astonished at what he accomplished in the lyrical second section (it “flowed so easily, so easily!  ... yet I put it together bar by bar and it nearly killed me.” The final Presto is a whirlwind of sound, again drawing on jazz. You’ll hear shrieks from the woodwinds, slides on the trombone, and muted trumpets, all in a breathless dash to the finish.

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Jeux

The fun-and-games scenario depicted in Debussy’s Jeux involves a tennis ball bouncing onto the stage, a boy and two girls playing tennis together, and what happens when the ball gets lost in the shrubbery. A variety of games ensues, from hide-and-seek to flirting to kissing, with some jealousy in the mix. As night falls, another ball appears out of nowhere, and the dancers — a bit startled — all run away. The music is colorful and full of the to-and-fro of the young people’s games, and the swirling sonorities are unmistakably Debussy’s. Listen for the entrance of the mysterious second tennis ball, sounded by a C-major triad, toward the end. Debussy’s somewhat suggestive Jeux might have caused its own small scandale if it wasn’t soon overshadowed by the wild Parisian premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring a couple of weeks later. (And let’s not forget the shock caused by Debussy’s Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun, another balletic menage a trois). 

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Der Rosenkavalier Suite

RICHARD STRAUSS (1864–1949)
Der Rosenkavalier Suite (1944)

The opera Der Rosenkavalier made Richard Strauss’s name a household word. It has everything an opera lover could want: a beautifully crafted libretto, a clever plot that combines humor and bittersweet sentimentality, dazzling waltzes, arguably the most gorgeous music ever composed for female voices, and an ending that never fails to bring tears to the eyes of the listener. Strauss gathered the highpoints from his most popular opera into an opulent suite that’s sure to transport you to Vienna’s golden age: a virile, typically-Straussian horn call launches the suite; the exquisite music from the presentation of the rose follows; then it’s a taste of the deliciously seductive waltzes; and finally the wistful trio and final duet (which The Rough Guide to Classical Music praises as: “the most overwhelmingly beautiful music composed [in the 20th] century.” Another rousing waltz brings this delightful suite to a close.

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