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Alan Gilbert To Step Down As Music Director Of The New York Philharmonic In 2017 .

   The world of classical music was stunned by a bombshell this morning when the New York Philharmonic announced that its current  music 

director Alan Gilbert  , 47  , will leave his prestigious but extremely demanding position as its music director at the end of the 2016-17 season .

    Gilbert began his tenure with the orchestra in 2009 ,  after  some years at the head of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic in Sweden and  

the  Santa Fe  Summer opera festival in New Mexico , as well as conducting  many of  the foremost orchestras  of Europe and America as

guest .  

   The Juilliard trained Gilbert is the son of two violinists in the orchestra , his Japanese born mother still being a member .  He  came to

the orchestra  to succeed the late Lorin Maazel  , who passed away last year at the age of 84 .  Gilbert was something of a dark  horse  

in the search for a conductor to  take over after Maazel ;  he had already had a distinguished conducting career but was  not as high profile

as  many of the potential candidates .

   The Philharmonic  administration hoped he would bring   youthful brilliance and   innovative programming to the orchestra  , which had  

however already  played a wide variety of new music  under previous music directors and guest conductors  over the years .  

Gilbert proved to be a staunch champion of new music by a wide variety of contemporary composers  of varying nationalities and  

compositional styles ,  In addition , he championed works by lesser known but  outstanding composers .  

   Gilbert initiated bold projects such as a concert performance of  the phantasmagorical surrealistic opera "Le Grande Macabre ",  by the

late Hungarian composer  Gyorgy Ligeti and concerts of unusual repertoire at the Armory in Manhattan  .  There was also a  musical

Biennale  , a festival of contemporary music  comparable to the Biennales for art in Venice , to name only some of the  adventurous  

projects initiated by Gilbert .  Of course, the orchestra continued to perform the beloved staples of the orchestral repertoire by Haydn, Mozart,  

Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky  and Rachmaninov  et al .   But no one could accuse the orchestra of  sticking exclusively  to the

tried and true .  

    Critical reaction to  Gilbert's performances  has been  favorable on the whole, but  there  were always  musical snipers  who complained

about this or that ,  finding fault with his performances for this or that reason . This comes with the job in any major orchestra .

    Being music director of the New York Philharmonic is probably one of the most thankless jobs in classical music .  

Eminent conductors such as Leonard Bernstein , Pierre Boulez ,  Zubin Mehta,  Kurt Masur , Lorin Maazel and others have   been

subject to  constant critical drubbing for this or that reason .  Interpretive style,  choice of repertoire , you name it .

It's impossible to please everyone .  

    In just one day , there has already been considerable speculation on  on possible conductors to  replace Gilbert .  It won't be an

easy task by any means , and never is with a major orchestra .  Some conductors  might be a good choice , but have taken up other prestigious

posts with other orchestras , and it;s unrealistic to expect them to be lured to New York so  early into there tenures elsewhere .  

   Other conductors might  be either too old  to  have the vigor to take up such a great responsibility so late in their careers, and others

are too young and inexperienced , as talented as they   are . Thre has even been talk about appointing  a woman conductor, 

which would be unprecedented for one of the so-called "big five " orchestras in America (New York, Chicago, Philadelphia,

Boston , Cleveland ).  

   And of course, it must not be a conductor who has never appeared as guest , because  this would be like  getting married to

someone you had never met .  The orchestra will not stand for a conductor it does not like and respect musically .  

    Gilbert has decided to step down before the  scheduled renovation of Avery Fisher hall in Lincoln Center, formerly known

as Philharmonic hall , which has  been  plagued by  problematic acoustics since its opening in 1962 .  This is tentatively scheduled to begin in

2018 , and the Philharmonic will have to find temporary residence somewhere else in New York .  

    There is no way to know now who the next music director will be . But the search will be as interesting as it is difficult .  Let's all hope for the 

best . 


Posted: Feb 06 2015, 11:03 PM by the horn | with no comments
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