The New York Philharmonic

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Spring for Music 'an Opportunity to Make a Statement,' Alan Gilbert Tells NYT

In a preview of Spring for Music, the festival that kicks off Monday at Carnegie Hall with a New York Philharmonic performance of Rouse's Requiem led by Alan Gilbert, The New York Times wrote: 

Philharmonic veterans could perhaps be excused for feeling a bit blasé about yet another appearance in Carnegie. But Mr. Gilbert, the music director, is having none of that.

“We’re very honored to be a part of Spring for Music,” he said, “fortunate to play in Carnegie Hall. It’s an opportunity to make a statement.”

Mr. Gilbert will finally take on Christopher Rouse’s Requiem, a big, long, difficult work and a project he has been toying with for several years. The orchestra will be joined by Jacques Imbrailo, a baritone; the Westminster Symphonic Choir; and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

“It is a massive undertaking,” Mr. Gilbert said, “emotionally, physically and logistically demanding. It is too much its own beast to be performed several nights in a subscription week.”

The work had its premiere in 2007, presented by Grant Gershon and the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Orchestra, and has not been performed since.

“Fun is not the word,” Mr. Gilbert said of the challenge. “It is vintage Chris,” he added, referring to Mr. Rouse, the Philharmonic’s composer in residence, whom he called “one of the real composers working these days.”

Mr. Rouse’s music, he added, “has true human dimension.”

NYT Hails Gilbert's 'Confident and Exuberant' Bernstein

Alan Gilbert Makoto Ozone NY Philharmonic 

In a review of April 22's A Night with Gershwin and Bernstein concert, The New York Times' Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim noted

the confident and exuberant performances Mr. Gilbert drew from the orchestra in Bernstein’s “Candide” Overture — dispatched with brisk cheer — and his Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story,” which featured a memorably wild Mambo. A vivid rendition of Gershwin’s “American in Paris” closed the evening.

That was after raving about pianist Makoto Ozone's "thrilling, virtuosic and unabashedly personal rendition of 'Rhapsody in Blue.'"

In February, he joined the Philharmonic on its Asian tour in performances of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” that were so successful — and evidently, fun — that the orchestra’s music director, Alan Gilbert, arranged for an out-of-series concert with Mr. Ozone in New York.

 (Photo: Chris Lee)

Sweeney Shows Range 21st-Century Orchestra Should Offer, Gilbert Tells Times

Alan Gilbert Conducts NY Philharmonic's  

Music Director Alan Gilbert was quoted in a March 26 article in The New York Times by David Belcher titled, "Musical or Opera? Stage Companies Are Drawing on Both Art Forms."

The article cited the Philharmonic's recent staged, full-orchestra production of Sweeney Todd in a discussion of the intersection between musical theater, opera, and symphony orchestras.

“‘Sweeney Todd’ is a great example of a piece that benefits enormously from being played by an orchestra onstage,” said Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic. “This is especially important today in an era where in the West End and Broadway you’re not always getting the effect of a full orchestra.”

Several of the musicals staged over the last decade by the New York Philharmonic have been broadcast on American television, including another Sondheim musical, “Company,” that starred Neil Patrick Harris, giving the Philharmonic an even larger profile and securing its reputation as an interpreter of American musicals (the recent “Sweeney Todd” will also air on television at a date still to be determined).

“Orchestras these days are called on to be more than just concert venues,” Mr. Gilbert said. “We are continuing to play Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, but the hope is to always expand our audience. It fits into a wider definition of what a philharmonic has to be in the 21st century.”

Critics Hail Alan Gilbert's Conducting of Sweeney Todd

Alan Gilbert Conducts NY Philharmonic's  

Alan Gilbert's way with a baton is at least as good as Emma Thompson's (playing Mrs. Lovett) with dough (see above).

Sweeney Todd was not the New York Philharmonic's first production of a musical theater work, but Gilbert is the first Philharmonic Music Director to conduct one.

Here's a selection of the reviews:

"Under Mr. Gilbert’s direction, the performance was remarkable for the clarity it brought to Jonathan Tunick’s sumptuous but delicately textured orchestrations. The merry piping of the woodwinds representing the sound of freedom to Johanna in 'Green Finch and Linnet Bird'; the darkly rippling strings that recur during repeated snatches of 'The Ballad of Sweeney Todd'; the terrifying bursts of brass that punctuate the show’s more violent moments: Such details can easily be blurred, but came through incisively here." — The New York Times

"Alan Gilbert has already shown that the Philharmonic can be the best opera company in town; now he’s put Broadway on notice, too." — New York

"As conductor and music director of the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert has one of the best, most rarefied jobs in Manhattan. And on Wednesday night, after the Philharmonic's concert version of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, he proved he's having more fun than the rest of us. ...

"Looking out into the crowd, he spied Mr. Sondheim, then turning to Ms. [Emma] Thompson, he whispered in her ear: 'I'm going to go get him; do you want to come along?'

The two beamed as they ran off the stage and up the aisle (mowing down early departers clogging the path) to Mr. Sondheim, who they embraced and whisked to the stage." — The Wall Street Journal

“Conducted by Alan Gilbert, the orchestra sounded excellent, especially during the more chaotic moments like the second-act ‘City on Fire.’” — Playbill

"The glory that is the New York Philharmonic, playing Jonathan Tunick’s orchestration, makes you realize just how great this score is; a large chorus added to its grandeur. Bernadette Peters, Barbara Cook, and yes, Stephen Sondheim were in the audience (he was brought on stage for a curtain call). All seemed overjoyed by Gilbert’s reading and the superb work of the cast." —

Alan Gilbert, Nielsen Project Featured in Times Article

Alan Gilbert Carl Nielsen 

In a February 20 article, part of the paper's Classical Spring Preview, The New York Times' Zachary Woolfe cited Alan Gilbert and the Philharmonic's Nielsen Project as the prime example of a boom in concerts featuring the Danish composer Carl Nielsen. Woolfe wrote:

Alan Gilbert’s most important efforts as music director of the New York Philharmonic have been in the realm of new music, hoisting the orchestra into the 21st century with initiatives like the Contact! series and the forthcoming NY Phil Biennial. But some of his biggest successes have been with a composer who died in 1931, the Danish symphonic master Carl Nielsen.

Buoyed by Mr. Gilbert, whose Scandinavian appetite might have grown during his years leading the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, his New York ensemble is in the midst of a multiyear project of recording Nielsen’s six symphonies and three concertos for the Dacapo label. In 2012, its program of the flute and violin concertos was among the best concerts of Mr. Gilbert’s tenure, a thrilling demonstration of a sensibility balanced between Romantic and Modernist.

Mr. Gilbert and the Philharmonic take another step forward with a program opening March 12 at Avery Fisher Hall: Nielsen’s First Symphony, whose opening bustles and slow movement does not so much wander as lyrically swirl, the dramatic Fourth (“Inextinguishable”) and the “Helios” Overture. ...

And the Philharmonic will have one more word on the subject. The British composer Julian Anderson’s “Discovery of Heaven,” whose American premiere will be performed by the Philharmonic on April 24 at Fisher Hall, under the direction of Andrew Davis, is inspired by sources as far-flung as Japanese Gagaku music, Mongolian overtone chanting, Gregorian chant and the interplay between percussion and melody at the end of the first movement of, you guessed it, Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony.

It will be a must-hear for the Nielsen Project completists out there, and perhaps enough to hold them until October, when the Philharmonic approaches the conclusion of its series at Fisher Hall with a program including the Symphonies No. 5 and 6. The Sixth, a thorny, ambiguous work nicknamed the “Sinfonia semplice,” will have its first Philharmonic performances, an occasion to celebrate for Nielsen lovers everywhere.

N.Y. Times: Alan Gilbert’s Beethoven ‘Ideally Paced and Energetic’

alan gilbert and lisa batiashvili 

Reviewing the January 9 concert for The New York Times, critic Vivien Schweitzer praised the "lively rendition" of Beethoven's Fidelio Overture that opened the program, which was conducted by Music Director Alan Gilbert. After intermission, the same composer's Symphony No. 1 received an "ideally paced and energetic" performance by Gilbert and the Orchestra.

Of Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1, with soloist Lisa Batiashvili, Schweitzer wrote:

Both soloist and orchestra aptly conveyed the introspective, somber mood of the opening Nocturne, the mournful declarations of the violin unfolding with glowing sound. Ms. Batiashvili played with panache in the sardonic Scherzo and virtuoso flair in the demonic Burlesque.

Gershwin's An American in Paris closed the evening. "The Philharmonic offered a vivid interpretation, playing with dynamic swing and conveying the exuberance of the street scenes and the nostalgia of the visitor yearning for home," Schweitzer wrote.

Alan Gilbert’s Tchaikovsky 5 ‘Bespoke and Modeled with Style’: N.Y. Times

Alan Gilbert 

Alan Gilbert made Tchaikovsky’s Fifth feel “bespoke and modeled with style,” The New York Times said of Thursday’s concert.

Critic Steve Smith added that Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No. 2 “constantly seduces with its arresting instrumental textures and barreling energy. Mr. Bronfman’s electric presence ... cause[d] a hearty roar”; and Rouse’s Rapture “elicited positively glorious sounds from the orchestra.”

Smith noted how rare second or third hearings of major new works are, adding: "credit, then, goes to Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, who have provided a chance to hear" the Lindberg concerto again.

The Financial Times' Martin Bernheimer echoed this: "Alan Gilbert, a maestro who plays by his own rules, apparently doesn’t care [that second performances are rare]."

Michael Cameron, in New York Classical Review, praised Gilbert's direction in the Tchaikovsky, "from the vigorous sweep and structural integrity of the opening movement to the hushed urgency and propulsive drive of the Scherzo. ... Gilbert received sustained warm and richly deserved applause from both audience and orchestra."​

New York Times Praises New Year's 'Antics' of Alan Gilbert, Phil, Igudesman & Joo

New Year's Eve Celebration

Reviewing the New Year's Eve Celebration featuring Igudesman & Joo in The New York Times, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim wrote, "the entire Philharmonic came out to play, in both senses of the word." 

Alan Gilbert, the Philharmonic’s music director, took revenge on the cellphone trolls of concerts past. “Do you ever feel your cellphone ringtone doesn’t match the music you are disturbing?” he asked, before offering a special Philharmonic ringtone potpourri in which the original dee-dee-deeeee-dee “Grand Waltz” kept popping up dressed up as Beethoven, or Ravel or Mozart. I’m downloading mine now.

Mr. Gilbert also joined the orchestra in sobbing theatrically when Mr. Joo segued from the Adagio of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto into the pop ballad “All by Myself.” (See photo, by Hiroyuki Ito. Click review link above to see more fun photos.)