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Alan Gilbert, Josh Groban Light Empire State Building to Honor Season Opening

NY Philharmonic

"We'd like to paint the town red, literally," Music Director Alan Gilbert said at this morning's ceremony to light The Empire State Building.

The Empire State Building is glowing Philharmonic Red today in honor of our 173rd season, which kicks off tonight. Vocalist Josh Groban, a soloist in the Opening Gala Concert, flipped the switch. In the photo above, he's flanked by Music Director Alan Gilbert and President and Executive Director Matthew VanBesien.

Groban tweeted:

Unfortunately, we can confirm he did not live out this fantasy. 

(Photo Chris Lee (left); The Empire State Building is a trademarked image and used with permission by ESRT)

Second Recording of Nielsen Project Released

NY Philharmonic Nielsen CD

The next recording of The Nielsen Project — the Philharmonic's multi-year focus on Carl Nielsen — is out. On Denmark's Dacapo label and distributed by the Naxos group, it features Music Director Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic's performances of Nielsen's Symphonies No. 1 and No. 4, The Inextinguishable. The recording is the second of four that will culminate in a boxed set coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the Danish composer's birth, June 9, 2015.

The recording is available for purchase and streaming on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, and other major online music providers.

Music Director Alan Gilbert will sign copies of the CD following the performance of Nielsen's Maskarade Overture and Symphonies No. 5 and No. 6, Sinfonia semplice on October 2.

For more information about Carl Nielsen and The Nielsen Project, including photos and video, visit


In The New York Times' "Classical Critics Pick the Top Music Recordings of 2014," chief classical music critic Anthony Tommasini wrote, "Alan Gilbert again proves an inspired conductor of the visionary Danish composer Carl Nielsen in this impressive live recording with the New York Philharmonic. ... Here are gripping, insightful accounts of the First and Fourth Symphonies." In November, Tommasini wrote, in a New York Times Classical Playlist: "Sometimes a musician just 'gets' a composer’s music, for example, the conductor Alan Gilbert and the Danish composer Carl Nielsen (1865-1931). ... [H]e manages to make these scores seem structured and inevitable."  

BBC Music magazine called the recording "fresh and daring," giving it a review of five out of five stars.

MusicWeb International wrote: "This is big-hearted music and Gilbert and the NYPO do it well."

New Yorker, WQXR Fall Previews Tip Oct. Nielsen Concerts

Alan Gilbert Carl Nielsen 

Last week, in its "Fall Preview: 20 Classical Music Concerts to Watch For," WQXR included the all-Nielsen program October 1–3 conducted by Alan Gilbert.

"Alan Gilbert conducts the final installment of his Nielsen Project, a multi-season cycle aimed to raise the profile of the idiosyncratic yet highly expressive Danish composer. The program features the Maskarade Overture, the tumultuous Symphony No. 5 (1921-22), and the strange and imposing Symphony No. 6 (1924)," wrote WQXR's Brian Wise.

In The New Yorker, Russell Platt wrote:

On Oct. 1-3, Alan Gilbert conducts the Philharmonic in the finale of his Nielsen Project, a multi-season effort to bring the Danish composer Carl Nielsen, one of the most fascinating and fiercely expressive of the early moderns, to a broader audience; the program includes the engaging “Maskarade” Overture, the shattering Symphony No. 5 (a Bernstein favorite), and the mysterious and mercurial Symphony No. 6.

Learn more about The Nielsen Project.

N.Y. Times Taps Gilbert, Philharmonic, Phelps, McGill for 'Fantasy Festival'

New York Times NY Philharmonic Alan Gilbert 

The New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert feature prominently in New York Times chief classical music critic Anthony Tommasini's "fantasy music festival" of 20th Century American works, which he describes in a fascinating article in today's paper titled "They Heard America Playing: Copland, Thomson and Others in a Fantasy Music Festival." It's the latest piece in a series in which Times critics curate their personal fantasy art experiences.

For one program, I would draft Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic to perform symphonies and film scores by Copland and Thomson. The concert could open with Copland’s suite from “Our Town,” the wistfully beautiful score he composed for the classic 1940 film version of the Thornton Wilder play. This would be followed by Thomson’s Suite from “Louisiana Story,” little heard these days. Audiences would be swept away by the plaintive beauty and folkloric character of the music. ...

For the other symphonic program, I would again draft the Philharmonic but present the concert at Carnegie Hall and ask Marin Alsop to conduct. It would open with one of Piston’s smart, inventive Neo-Classical symphonies, perhaps the Second (1943) or the Sixth (1955), both of which I admire. I would couple a symphony with Piston’s remarkable 1957 Viola Concerto, with the Philharmonic’s superb principal violist, Cynthia Phelps, as soloist.

For a chamber-music concert, Tommasini picks incoming Principal Clarinet Anthony McGill to help play Roy Harris’s Concerto for String Quartet, Piano and Clarinet, "an inexplicably neglected work from the mid-1920s."

Alan Gilbert One of Minn. Public Radio's Conducting 'Morning Glories'

Alan Gilbert NY Philharmonic 

On Monday, Music Director Alan Gilbert led off Minnesota Public Radio's Morning Glories: Five Young Conductors series.

Travelling the world, leading ensembles small and large, and embracing music of every stripe, these five young conductors represent a new generation in classical music. They're some of the most visible leaders in the classical world today, and their international prominence is helping secure the future of classical music in many different ways.

This week, we'll hear five enormous pieces to celebrate the colossal talent and potential of these titans.

The piece they picked was Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 2, The Four Temperaments, the recording of which was heralded by The New York Times as one of the Best Classical Music Recordings of 2012.

"As the child of two New York Philharmonic musicians," Jennifer Anderson wrote,

Alan Gilbert grew up hanging around the orchestra. Now, he's leading that ensemble, and they're making sure that the kids of New York have nearly as much exposure to music as he did, performing concerts for children as young as 3. At the same time, Gilbert remains strongly committed to challenging and engaging concertgoers of all ages through a robust adult education series and vibrant new music commissioning program.

Finally, here's a tweet from Classical MPR D.J. Alison Young with an observation that hadn't occurred to us. Do you agree with her? Click the photo and tweet a reply!

Alan Gilbert a 'Revelation' Leading Music Academy of the West Orchestra

Alan Gilbert NY Philharmonic 

"Alan Gilbert, the charismatic leader of the New York Philharmonic, took the stage at the Lobero on Saturday with a question that was tinged with irony. 'Do you like Arnold Schoenberg?' he asked the audience in the hearty tone of a rock star."

So begins the Santa Barbara Independent's review of Alan's performance leading Music Academy of the West's Academy Festival Orchestra. The concert capped a week-long residency by Alan and several Philharmonic musicians that kicked off a four-year collaboration between the two institutions.

The response, although sprinkled with laughter, was a roar of approval. He then reminded the enthusiastic listeners of Schoenberg’s history with the Music Academy, and of the “difficult, but with heart” musical Romanticism of this early, adventurous, but not yet atonal work. Then he and the young musicians plunged in to the Chamber Symphony No. 1 in E-flat Major, Op. 9, which remains one of the 20th century’s wildest musical rides. Gilbert’s decision to augment the original arrangement, which was scored for 15 individual instruments, with additional strings — he referred to it as a “bulked up” version — might be the subject of some well-informed second guesses, but there was no confusion when it came to the sound he got from these players, which was outstanding.

Next up was another exciting 20th century chamber symphony, this one by Thomas Ades. This 1990 composition is an altogether idiosyncratic work, playful to the point of perversity, and filled with both jazzy, unpredictable rhythms and odd, unconventional instruments, including an accordion, the inimitable “boing” of a Flexitone, and the improvised wind instrument created when one blows across the top of a wine bottle. Gilbert joked that the note hit by this not-empty bottle could be heard to fluctuate during rehearsal, a nod to our city’s special relationship with wine that was clearly part of his excellent rapport with the Academy fellows.

After intermission came Schubert's Symphony No. 2 in B-flat Major, D. 125.

Although this choice came with an audible diminution in the complexity of the composition, Gilbert and company more than made up for the shift with a beautiful, singing tone and propulsive rhythmic inflections. Seeing Gilbert conduct from up close and in this relatively unbuttoned atmosphere was truly a revelation. Every gesture was solid with the precision and confidence of a master at the height of his powers. His highly physical lunging and pirouetting style also brought out the best in the Academy fellows, who played this music as though their young lives depended on it. As a preview of what is to come not only in this season, but over the next four years as the Music Academy and the New York Philharmonic grow into their new collaboration, the concert was a remarkable harbinger of much more greatness to come.

Critics Praise Alan Gilbert and Yefim Bronfman, a Pianist 'For All Time'

Alan Gilbert Yefim Bronfman NY Philharmonic 

"The piano soloist, all month long, is Yefim Bronfman, than whom there is not a better pianist in the world. He is not a pianist merely for now but for all time."

So begins Jay Nordlinger's review of Friday's concert in The New Criterion. He added, "Bronfman is made for Beethoven, given this strong lyricism, and the intelligence, and the technique, and everything else in this pianist’s arsenal. Not excluded from this arsenal is humor: Bronfman revealed some of that in the cadenza."

Nordlinger added that Music director Alan Gilbert "is adept in Beethoven. In fact, he conducted one of the best performances of the Fourth Symphony I have ever heard. ... Gilbert is both solid and smooth, and knows how Beethoven should be sculpted."

The New York Times' Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, reviewing the June 11 concert, found the performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 to be "the concert’s emotional and musical highlight. With the help of Mr. Gilbert, Mr. Bronfman brought out the tension between the serenity of the opening statement and the nervy pulse that repeatedly tries to edge it onward."

In Concerto.Net, Harry Rolnick, reviewing the June 11 concert, said Bronfman played Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 "with all the pellucid beauty of tone and clarity of conception which it deserves. ... Two more weeks of Bronfman, Gilbert and Beethoven? The mind is elated."

New York Classical Review's Amanda Angel was there the same night. Of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 she said, "The rapport between orchestra, Gilbert, and soloist, which flourished across this season, was clear in the rondo in which the piano and orchestra alternate showcased Bronfman’s virtuosity."

(Photo: Chris Lee)

In Time for Father's Day: Advice Alan Gilbert Got From His Dad

Alan Gilbert NY Philharmonic

Just in time for Father's Day, Music Director Alan Gilbert spoke with Gotham about some good advice he got from his father, former Philharmonic violinist Michael Gilbert:

“One of the most important things I learned from my father is to never forget to identify with the musicians I am conducting — to always be aware of what they are feeling."

(Photo by Julie Skarratt: family photo of Alan Gilbert; his wife, Kajsa William-Olsson; his father, Michael; and his mother, recently retired Philharmonic violinist Yoko Takebe)