The concert of September 16, 2009, when Alan Gilbert steps onto the podium to conduct the New York Philharmonic in its Gala Opening Night, is launching a series of firsts. Less than one month following this inaugural performance as the Orchestra's 25th music director (he is the first native New Yorker and one of the youngest people ever to hold that position), Mr. Gilbert will take the Philharmonic on its first international tour under his leadership: Asian Horizons. The five-country journey will run from October 8 to October 24 and will include returns to familiar destinations such as Tokyo, Japan; Seoul, South Korea; and Singapore, as well as the Orchestra's debuts in Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates. "The Asian Horizons tour represents the opening of a new chapter in our history," Philharmonic President and Executive Director Zarin Mehta explains. "Alan's vision is fresh, and his musicianship inspiring," he continues, adding that this tour is an exciting opportunity "to show the new partnership between Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic to new audiences."
Following the success of the 2008 tour to Asia, the Philharmonic eagerly anticipates returning to the region and renewing its relationships with local friends and audiences. It also marks the Orchestra's fourth tour : and the second to Asia : under the aegis of its Global Sponsor, Credit Suisse. "Credit Suisse is proud to support the New York Philharmonic and its 2009 Asian Horizons tour as the Orchestra's sole Global Sponsor," says Paul Calello, New York Philharmonic Board Member as well as Chief Executive Officer, Investment Bank, Credit Suisse. "We are particularly delighted to participate in the first international tour with new Music Director Alan Gilbert. After such an enthusiastic response to last year's Asia tour, we anticipate with great pleasure being able to share another season of the New York Philharmonic with our clients and employees in the region : from the Orchestra's first stop in Tokyo to its debuts in Hanoi and Abu Dhabi, and its performances in all the other tour cities."
The tour opens with a homecoming. The Orchestra returns to Tokyo, where it has performed frequently since its debut in 1971, and where the new Music Director has longstanding ties, having spent a lot of time there as a child, visiting his mother's family, and having developed a rich and varied career in that sophisticated music capital. He explains: "To debut as Music Director with the New York Philharmonic in Tokyo, the land of my ancestors, on my very first international endeavor with the Orchestra, is more than a dream come true." But while Tokyo's Suntory Hall may be familiar to the Philharmonic musicians and their audience, not all of the repertoire will be: the very first work of the concert : and, indeed, of the tour : will be Magnus Lindberg's EXPO, a New York Philharmonic Commission that the Orchestra will have premiered at Avery Fisher Hall on the September 16 Opening Night Concert. Performing this work both at home and abroad has special significance: this month Mr. Lindberg is beginning his two-year tenure as the Orchestra's Composer-in- Residence, fulfilling one of Mr. Gilbert's initiatives as new Music Director.
|photo by J. Henry Fair|
From Tokyo the Orchestra will journey to the Seoul Arts Center, in another city that is very familiar to the Philharmonic (their most recent visit was in February 2008, for a performance that immediately followed the unprecedented trip to Pyongyang, North Korea). There, Mr. Gilbert and the Philharmonic will collaborate with a new partner, as 19-year-old Korean violinist Ye-Eun Choi makes her Philharmonic debut performing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto.
These sentimental journeys behind them, the tour will turn to the new, as Alan Gilbert takes the Orchestra to places it's never been before. The Philharmonic will travel to Hanoi for its first-ever concerts in Vietnam, in the historic, early-20th-century Hanoi Opera House. The concerts will include the national anthems of both the United States and Vietnam, as well as Beethoven's Symphony No. 7; on October 16 the Orchestra will perform Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4, featuring Emanuel Ax, and on October 17 Brahms's Violin Concerto, with Frank Peter Zimmermann.
The performances will be simulcast on a large screen in the plaza adjacent to the Opera House. In addition, Philharmonic musicians will offer master classes and participate in various educational activities with local music students. In another first, the Philharmonic's Hanoi performance will be broadcast on the Philharmonic's radio program, The New York Philharmonic This Week, presided over by the show's brand-new host, Emmy and Golden Globe Award _winning actor Alec Baldwin, who is traveling to Hanoi with the Orchestra. The opportunity to perform in Vietnam for the first time and interact with young musicians is part of what Mr. Mehta calls "a rich cultural exchange," and, he says, it further affirms his long-held belief in "the power of music to cross borders and unite people of very differing backgrounds."
After the concerts in Hanoi it's on to Singapore for two performances at the beautiful waterfront Esplanade Theater, October 19 and 20, as well as a free public performance by the New York Philharmonic Principal Brass. Then the Orchestra will make its debuts in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, in the United Arab Emirates. "To have the opportunity to reach new horizons in Hanoi and Abu Dhabi with this truly global Orchestra is a great honor," Mr. Gilbert says. Another honor: the Philharmonic's October 23 and 24 concerts will open the 2009 _10 season of the Abu Dhabi Classics, the Arab world's first year-round performing arts series.
And after the tour? It's back to New York and Avery Fisher Hall for Mr. Gilbert and the musicians of the New York Philharmonic, where together they will continue to reach for new horizons in very familiar land.
Amy Hegarty is the Publications Editor at the New York Philharmonic.