The New York Philharmonic

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Thomas Adès's Totentanz a 'Glimpse of Future of Symphonic Music,' New York Magazine Says

New York Magazine Thomas Ades NY Philharmonic

"If you'd like a glimpse of the future of symphonic music — or if you just want to know what devilish majesty the New York Philharmonic will shortly unleash — this two-year-old YouTube video from the Proms in London is a good place to start. It shows the world premiere of Thomas Adès's Totentanz (Dance of Death), which the Philharmonic will perform March 12 through 14," wrote Justin Davidson in New York Magazine.

The critical buzz anticipating these performances, conducted by Adès himself, extends to The New Yorker's Alex Ross, who wrote that Adès is "securely established as a modern master, each new piece assuming the trappings of an event."

In The New York Times, William Robin wrote a piece titled "They're Always Stealing His Stuff" about Adès's huge influence on younger and middle-aged composers such as Andrew Norman and Caroline Shaw. He wrote, "Based on a grim 15th-century frieze, Totentanz is far from the uproarious polystylism of Asyla, though it shares its balance of the lyrical and the unsettling."


The Wall Street Journal's Pia Catton did a piece on Adès and Totentanz on March 10. She quotes soprano Christianne Stotijn: 

“Sometimes it’s an ecstasy of panic, especially when they don’t want to die,” said Ms. Stotijn, describing the music. “You have grown-up characters who react like children. You have a knight who acts like a hero. It’s full of color.”

To portray such a variety of characters, Mr. Adès employed a wide range of nontraditional instruments, such as a standard referee’s whistle with which Death controls the proceedings.

“When he blows his whistle, you have to stop what you’re doing,” said Mr. Adès.

Also onstage are snake rattles, whips, ratchets and bamboo canes. “I’ve gone to town with the percussion,” he said, in order to have instruments that people in the 15th century might have had. “The bones and the clappers and things that can be bashed together.”

Which Philharmonic Offerings Made The New York Times, New York Magazine, NPR Best of 2014 Lists?

NY Philharmonic What's New

Some critics' Top Classical Music Events of 2014 roundups are in! We are honored that shout-outs went to: 

Sweeney Todd, from March (New York Magazine)

Marino Formenti’s Liszt recital as part of the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, from June (New York Magazine and The New York Times, with Chief Music Critic Anthony Tommasini of the latter applauding “Alan Gilbert’s vision” and calling the biennial “a tremendous accomplishment.” But really, kudos go to our friends and partners at Great Performers at Lincoln Center for spearheading that intimate evening.

Modern Times from September (The New York Times) 

We made the Times’s other lists as well, including — no joke — the Funniest, from April: “Back-row players of the New York Philharmonic also took the spotlight … when the trombonist Joseph Alessi … and the bassist David J. Grossman joined the Japanese jazz pianist Makoto Ozone for an encore. … In Alan Gilbert, the Philharmonic has a conductor who knows how important it is to let musicians play, in both senses of the word.”

And another offers a nice holiday gift idea! NPR Music’s Deceptive Cadence picked the CD of Nielsen’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4, released in September, as one of the Best Classical Albums of 2014.

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 and Philharmonic Take 3 of NYMag’s Top 10 Concerts

ny mag 

In baseball, 3 for 10 is a .300 average — the benchmark of a top hitter. In music it’s not bad, either.

Alan Gilbert and the Philharmonic have three concerts on New York magazine's “10 Best Classical Performances of the Year” — more than any other musical institution.

Equally satisfying is the wide range the three concerts reflect. Here’s what critic Justin Davidson wrote:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey, from September's Art of the Score: Film Week at the Philharmonic. “Stanley Kubrick’s trippy meditation on galactic travel never seemed more operatic than when the Philharmonic ripped the great soundtrack out of two dimensions and into the concert hall.”
  • Unsuk Chin's Gougalon, from the April CONTACT! concerts: “Scored for a jangly ensemble of percussion, strings, winds, and brass, the piece, subtitled 'Scenes From a Street Theater,' evokes the raucous soundtrack of the composer’s native Seoul. ... Chin’s work made the whole concert snap into focus.”
  • Ives’s Symphony No. 4, from an April subscription concert: “Few conductors can whip Ives’s crazy megalopolis of a score into luminous sense more effectively than Alan Gilbert.”