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Gilbert Conducts: Dvorak, Beethoven, and Lindberg

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Music Director

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 four 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

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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