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Gilbert Conducts: Dvorak, Beethoven, and Lindberg

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Conductor

Alan Gilbert

Alan Gilbert, former Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, launches a new appointment as chief conductor designate of Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra this fall, shortly after the opening of its already iconic new home. The Grammy Award–winning conductor previously served as principal guest conductor of the orchestra (then known as NDR Symphony Orchestra Hamburg) for more than a decade, and will assume the role of chief conductor in September 2019. This position follows his truly transformative eight-year tenure as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, during which, through such key initiatives as the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, he succeeded in making the Orchestra a leader on the cultural landscape. Alan Gilbert is also conductor laureate of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and the founder and president of Musicians for Unity. With the endorsement and guidance of the United Nations, this new organization will bring together musicians from around the world to perform in support of peace, development, and human rights.

Alan Gilbert makes regular guest appearances with orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle, and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. He has led operatic productions for Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Zurich Opera, Royal Swedish Opera, and Santa Fe Opera, where he was the inaugural music director.

His discography includes The Nielsen Project, a box set recorded with the New York Philharmonic, and John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, captured on DVD at The Metropolitan Opera, for which he won a Grammy Award. He received Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Music Direction in PBS’s Live From Lincoln Center broadcasts of two star-studded New York Philharmonic productions: of Sweeney Todd and Sinatra: Voice for a Century.

Alan Gilbert has received Honorary Doctor of Music degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music and Westminster Choir College, as well as Columbia University’s Ditson Conductor’s Award. He is a member of The American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and was named an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. At The Juilliard School, he is the first holder of the William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies and serves as Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies. After giving the annual Royal Philharmonic Society Lecture on Orchestras in the 21st Century: A New Paradigm during the New York Philharmonic’s EUROPE / SPRING 2015 tour, he received a 2015 Foreign Policy Association Medal for his commitment to cultural diplomacy.

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Piano

Yefim Bronfman by Dario Acosta

Pianist Yefim Bronfman works regularly with conductors Daniel Barenboim, Herbert Blomstedt, Semyon Bychkov, Riccardo Chailly, Christoph von Dohnányi, Gustavo Dudamel, Charles Dutoit, Daniele Gatti, Valery Gergiev, Alan Gilbert, Mariss Jansons, Vladimir Jurowski, James Levine, Riccardo Muti, Andris Nelsons, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Franz Welser-Möst, and David Zinman. Acknowledging a relationship of more than 30 years, Mr. Bronfman opened the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2016–17 season with Zubin Mehta in October, and participated in that orchestra’s 80th birthday celebrations in December.

Mr. Bronfman returns to the New York Philharmonic (where he served as the 2013–14 season Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence), Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras, and the Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, Houston, and Dallas symphony orchestras, among many others. A cross-country series of recitals will culminate in the spring with a program at Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium.

In Europe he tours extensively in recital and with orchestras in Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Brussels, and Leipzig. Continuing his long-standing partnership with Pinchas Zukerman, the duo will appear in Copenhagen, Milan, Naples, Barcelona, Berlin, and St. Petersburg in March.

Mr. Bronfman’s chamber music partners have also included Martha Argerich, Magdalena Kožená, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Emmanuel Pahud, and many others. Mr. Bronfman was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize in 1991, and the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in piano performance from Northwestern University in 2010. He has been nominated for three Grammy Awards, one of which he won for his recording of the three Bartók Piano Concertos with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, led by Esa-Pekka Salonen. He was nominated for a 2013 Grammy for the recording of Magnus Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, commissioned for him by the Orchestra.

Born in Tashkent in the Soviet Union in 1958, Yefim Bronfman immigrated to Israel with his family in 1973. 

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Violin

Frank Peter Zimmermann by Franz Hamm

Frank Peter Zimmermann is widely regarded as one of the foremost violinists of his generation. Praised for his selfless musicality, brilliance, and keen intelligence, he has been performing with all major orchestras in the world for well over three decades, collaborating on these occasions with the world’s most renowned conductors. His many concert engagements take him to all important concert venues and international music festivals in Europe, the United States, Asia, South America, and Australia. Highlights during the 2016–17 season include engagements with the Bavarian State Orchestra conducted by Kirill Petrenko, Boston Symphony Orchestra and Jakub Hrůša, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Göteborg Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Afkham, London’s Philharmonia Orchestra with Juraj Valčuha and Rafael Payare, Berlin Philharmonic with Alan Gilbert, Finnish Symphony Orchestra and Hannu Lintu, Orchestre National de France and Juraj Valčuha, Berliner Barock Solisten, Bamberg Symphony with Manfred Honeck, and Vienna Symphonic Orchestra and Jakub Hrůša. Mr. Zimmermann is also an avid chamber musician and recitalist. He tours Europe in December 2016 with the Trio Zimmermann, his string trio with violist Antoine Tamestit and cellist Christian Poltéra. Frank Peter Zimmermann’s numerous award-winning CD recordings, spanning a wide and varied range of repertoire, are available on EMI Classics, Sony Classical, BIS Records, Decca, and ECM Records. He has received the Premio del Accademia Musicale Chigiana, Siena (1990), Rheinischer Kulturpreis (1994), Musikpreis of the city of Duisburg (2002), and the Federal Cross of Merit, First Class, of the Federal Republic of Germany (2008). Born in Duisburg, Germany, Frank Peter Zimmermann started playing the violin when he was five years old, and gave his first concert with orchestra at the age of ten. He studied with Valery Gradov, Saschko Gawriloff, and Herman Krebbers. He made his New York Philharmonic debut in December 1996 playing Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1, led by then Music Director Kurt Masur. He most recently performed the U.S. Premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s Violin Concerto No. 2, conducted by Alan Gilbert, in January 2016.

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Carnival Overture

ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK (1841–1904)
Carnival Overture (1891)

Bursting with spirit and energy, Carnival is the second of Dvořák’s three concert overtures (the other two are In Nature’s Realm and Othello, originally titled “Nature, Life, and Love”). The running thread among them is a theme representing the life force, which the composer called “nature,” and which has the power “to create and sustain life, but also, in its negative form, could destroy it,” according to John Clapham’s study of the composer. Dvořák’s own commentary for Carnival describes the music perfectly: “The lonely, contemplative wanderer reaches the city at nightfall, where a carnival is in full swing. On every side is heard the clangor of instruments, mingled with shouts of joy and the unrestrained hilarity of people giving vent to their feelings in their songs and dance tunes.” The vibrant Bohemian flavors so integral to Dvořák’s music depict this joyful scene with bright orchestral colors and rhythms.

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Violin Concerto

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
Violin Concerto (1806)

It has been called “the Mount Everest of violin concertos” and, jokingly, Beethoven’s “tenth symphony with violin obbligato.” The Violin Concerto, his only one for the instrument, is a bravura composition of startling emotional scope, and longer by far than concertos written before that time. Starting with soft taps on the timpani — a recurring motif that is integral to the work’s fabric — a lengthy orchestral introduction heralds the soloist’s entrance, after which the composition unfolds as a marvelous exchange between violin and orchestra. In the first movement you’ll hear the lyrical theme that the soloist finally gets to play all the way through — after a cadenza. The calm of the Larghetto movement leads into a finale that gives violinists the opportunity to display their art and craft, especially in the unusually long and dazzling coda. After a final burst of fireworks, this masterpiece that has thrilled audiences for more than two centuries comes to a glorious conclusion.

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Piano Concerto No. 2

MAGNUS LINDBERG (born in 1958 in Helsinki, Finland)
Piano Concerto No. 2 (2012)

During Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg’s tenure as Composer-in-Residence of the New York Philharmonic (2009–12), audiences had the opportunity to hear a substantial portion of his notable creations, including Kraft, Feria, Al Largo, EXPO, and the 2012 premiere of his Piano Concerto No. 2, co-commissioned by the New York Philharmonic. The work received rave reviews, and the soloist Yefim Bronfman was praised by The New York Times as someone “who can seemingly play anything. It took all of his technique and stamina to dispatch this monster concerto…He gave a brilliant and triumphant performance.... and mastered every challenge: thick chords that leap across the keyboard; spiraling bursts of runs and sputtering arpeggios; cascades of double thirds; finger-twisting counterpoint; on and on.... I look forward to hearing it again. ” Maestro Alan Gilbert concurs, “With Yefim Bronfman you don’t have to worry about technical limitations. He will be able conquer whatever challenges are in the score.” The pianist, too, acknowledges that it was a “complex and fascinating piece.... I love the second movement; I think it has some of the most beautiful moments of lyricism and power and drama ... a nice, quiet, introspective beginning of the solo piano, interrupted by jolts of explosions; then comes the most difficult passage in the whole piece for piano and percussion playing together.... Some of the [Concerto is] almost unplayable ... but my job is to be able to play what’s written, not to complain.” Yet Magnus Lindberg makes it sound so simple: “The concerto runs continuously; there are three clear sections, which evolved naturally during composition. The first presents everything in expository fashion; the second is a contrasting slow movement with cadenza, and the third is a more direct, straightforward finale.” Now, get ready for an encore performance of this amazing work. It’s a not-to- be-missed event.
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Symphony No. 7

ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK (1841–1904)
Symphony No. 7 (1885)

When Dvořák was commissioned to compose a new symphony, he wrote to a friend, “My new symphony must be such as to make a stir in the world,” a goal that the Seventh fulfilled magnificently. Many consider this to be Dvořák’s most perfect symphony — a work of beauty, drama, turbulence, and melodic riches. Although pressured to abandon his musical allegiance to his native Bohemia to be viewed more favorably in Vienna, Dvořák defended the nationalism in his works. in fact, it may be that his response this pressure to forsake his musical roots infused the Seventh Symphony with both a melancholy and decidedly Czech spirit. While he did not quote any folk songs verbatim, their rhythms and cadences are there. In the third movement, listen for the exciting sounds of the furiant, an aptly named Czech dance. And when, at the end, D major triumphs over D minor, it feels like being embraced by sunlight.

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