It is always fun to speak to people on the street : more and more, people say 'Hi' to me," says Alan Gilbert. "I think people are responding to the range of pieces we choose to play and to the exciting, unusual new projects that we've been doing. That's very gratifying."
As the Music Director approaches his fourth season with the New York Philharmonic, one can sense the crystallization of wonderfully inspired relationships : between the Music Director and the musicians, and among them and their audience, as well as in the cultural community at large. Alan Gilbert's vision has led to carefully constructed programming that has established a 21st-century identity, winning over New Yorkers' hearts.
The 2012 _13 season opens with a twist. First, the September 19 _22 concerts showcase Leif Ove Andsnes in Gy‹rgy Kurtšg's ... quasi una fastasia ... and Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto. "This combination reflects what Leif Ove sees as very important and meaningful connections between the Kurtšg and the Beethoven. I think it will be a fascinating journey for our audience." The program concludes with the Music Director's first-ever performances of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. Then, on September 27, comes the Opening Gala, a festive evening with an old friend, violinist Itzhak Perlman, performing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto on a program that also includes Respighi's The Fountains of Rome and The Pines of Rome. Alan Gilbert explains his choice: "These are virtuosic, exciting pieces that everybody knows and loves, and the New York Philharmonic plays them better than anybody."
Over the season the Philharmonic continues to cultivate other long-term relationships. Building on more than 100 concerts together, pianist Emanuel Ax becomes the Philharmonic's Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in- Residence, performing concertos composed over almost four centuries in a display of his wide-ranging talent. He also joins Philharmonic musicians in chamber music, and travels on the Orchestra's EUROPE / SPRING 2013 tour. In a particularly fascinating pairing, in October Mr. Ax will take his first-ever stab at a Bach keyboard concerto, and follow it up with Schoenberg's Piano Concerto, which Mr. Ax describes as "a favorite," and "a wonderful, brilliant, and, in some ways, maybe slightly disturbing piece : I hope that audiences will take to it." And : an irresistible choice when Emanuel Ax is the soloist : Mozart's Concerto No. 25, both at home in April and on tour.
In June the pianist will play Seeing for Piano and Orchestra, a 1999 work that he and the Philharmonic premiered by Christopher Rouse, who is beginning a two-year tenure as The Marie-Jos_e Kravis Composer-in-Residence. As part of his residency, the American composer is writing a work that Alan Gilbert and the Orchestra will premiere on a program with works by two iconic American composers: Bernstein's Serenade, with violinist Joshua Bell, and Ives's Fourth Symphony.
Also in Mr. Rouse's first Philharmonic season is his Phantasmata (composed 1981 _ 85). "I just love the Philharmonic musicians," the composer says. "They have always played with such energy and commitment, and when I got older and wrote music that they played, they did it the same way. I'm thrilled to be able to work with them more closely." Christopher Rouse will advise on CONTACT!, the new-music series. Conductor/composer Jayce 20 13 2The Lead Story Ogren, in his Philharmonic debut, leads the December all-American program featuring works by three younger composers : Andy Akiho, Jude Vaclavik, and Andrew Norman : and the late Jacob Druckman, one of Rouse's predecessors as Philharmonic Composer-in- Residence. Alan Gilbert leads the April CONTACT! concerts, with works by Unsuk Chin, Poul Ruders, Yann Robin, and Anders Hillborg. Hillborg's music is also at the center of the Philharmonic's Carnegie Hall appearance in April, through a new song cycle written for soprano Ren_e Fleming, co-commissioned by the Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall.
The Bach Variations: A Philharmonic Festival is an extensive exploration of the composer, presented in collaboration with the 92nd Street Y. The Philharmonic will perform the composer's works : and a few by his Romantic successors Mendelssohn and Schumann : through the perspectives of four conductors, Masaaki Suzuki, Bernard Labadie, Andršs Schiff, and Mr. Gilbert, who will lead the Mass in B minor. "Bach really can be full of the most meaningful expression in a huge range of interpretations and stylistic approaches," says the Music Director. "We want to show that there are different and equally valid ways to approach his music. This festival will allow our audience to experience this music through different lenses."
June Journey: Gilbert's Playlist : the Music Director's final four programs of the season : reflects many of his interests and passions. An appreciation for the effect of jazz on orchestral music (May 30 _June 1) kicks this off, with works by Stravinsky and Shostakovich that play on American popular genres, as well as the jazz-infused Clarinet Concerto by Copland and Wynton Marsalis's Swing Symphony (Symphony No. 3) with Mr. Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, the same forces that gave the work's U.S. premiere in September 2010. That is followed by a concert performance of a rarely visited opera : Luigi Dallapiccola's serialist Il Prigioniero : with bass-baritone Gerald Finley in the title role. Mr. Finley is another of Mr. Gilbert's close associates who is returning during the season, as is violinist Lisa Batiashvili, who performs Prokofiev on the same concerts. Then the two major artistic residencies overlap, with Emanuel Ax's performance of Rouse's Seeing, on a program that includes A Ring Journey, Gilbert's own orchestration of Erich Leinsdorf's arrangement of Wagner's Ring.
Once again the season ends with a collaboration with director/designer Doug Fitch : the force behind the visually stunning productions of Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre (2010) and Janšcˇ ek's The Cunning Little Vixen (2011). This time he will breathe life into Petrushka, Stravinsky's ballet about living puppets, through his technique of "live animation" (involving the projection of puppetry and other imagery in real time) as well as an unusual role for the Orchestra. "I'm very interested in Doug's philosophy of having the process of creating art be visible," Alan Gilbert says. "That kind of philosophical connection of having the process itself onstage, visible in real time : I think that's a very interesting statement about art." The program continues to celebrate the theatrical side of Stravinsky with his The Fairy's Kiss, a ballet score that the Philharmonic has not performed since 1993.
Throughout the season Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic will be joined by acclaimed and emerging soloists, with returning guest conductors who include former Music Directors Kurt Masur and Lorin Maazel, and a number of conductors making their debuts with the Orchestra, including Emmanuelle HaÇm, Kurav Valcˇuha, Lionel Bringuier, and Manfred Honeck. Not to mention the staged production of Rodgers & Hammersten's Carousel, directed by James Brennan and conducted by Rob Fisher (the team behind the Philharmonic's 2007 production of My Fair Lady); performances and live recordings of Carl Nielsen's three concertos; Marvin Hamlisch conducting a concert featuring Michael Feinstein, James Galway, and Frederica von Stade on New Year's Eve; and much, much more, all with the expressive power and insight of the New York Philharmonic.
"It's been a great joy to be able to make music with these incredible musicians," says Gilbert. "The experience of sharing what we have with the audience in a very palpable and visceral and potent way : it's really what we're here for."
Karissa Krenz is a freelance arts and entertainment writer.