NEW YORK — New York Philharmonic Chairman Gary W. Parr and Executive Director Matthew VanBesien announced Oct. 24 the extension of Alan Gilbert’s contract as music director through the 2016-17 season.
Gilbert opened his tenure as music director on Sept. 16, 2009, and has just begun his fourth season.
Among the first actions of VanBesien — who officially assumed his position on Sept. 1 — the three-year contract extension reflects the strong chemistry between the music director, the orchestra, and the organization. The new contract also creates a powerful five-year horizon in which the partnership of the music director and the executive director can define and evolve their vision for the New York Philharmonic.
Gilbert and the musicians share a rare synergy that infuses every concert, and have traversed the repertoire from Bach and Mozart through Mahler and Stravinsky to music of the present day. Their performances together have garnered critical acclaim on the three continents that they’ve visited together, through tours that included highlights such as the Philharmonic’s Vietnam debut; the inaugural International Associates residency at London’s Barbican Centre; and a spotlighted role in the San Francisco Symphony’s centennial celebrations.
Events at home have consistently landed on media lists of the year’s top cultural events. The music director’s 2012-13 Philharmonic season builds on this momentum with more premieres and canonical masterpieces, a fifth European tour, and “A Dancer’s Dream: Two Works by Stravinsky” — a fusion of symphony, theater, and ballet. In his leadership roles at both the Philharmonic and The Juilliard School, Gilbert has become a leading New York City cultural figure.
“Alan Gilbert is an innovative and visionary leader for the New York Philharmonic,” said Parr. “He has brought a thoughtful and intelligent revolution that has advanced this storied institution at home in New York and in its role as cultural ambassador abroad. Every concert has an energy that is contagious. I know that our audiences and musicians alike have been thrilled with the journey Alan has taken them on. He has the total and enthusiastic support of the Board of Directors and our management team, and we look forward to continuing this great musical adventure with Alan for years to come.”
“I came to the New York Philharmonic not only because of the wonderful tradition here at this orchestra, but also to have the opportunity to forge the strongest of partnerships with Alan,” said VanBesien. “Working closely with him, our musicians, and the entire organization, we are charting a new path for the Philharmonic, emanating from, and in full support of, Alan’s artistic vision. His initiatives and accomplishments are already transforming the institution — his programming is fresh and exciting, juxtaposing works from every era and musical language, and his bold, creative ideas about how we should lead the musical dialogue are having a serious impact on the larger artistic conversation in America.
“We share a passion in the belief that the New York Philharmonic is not only a truly magnificent orchestra, but also an incredible resource, one that we can expand and develop even further in the years to come. To find myself at the beginning of a five-year working canvas in partnership with him is a thrilling prospect.”
“When I first became music director, I said that this was the dream I hadn’t dared to dream,” commented Gilbert. “After these three amazing seasons, I can say it’s been a spectacular adventure. My relationship with these extraordinary musicians grows and deepens every day, and it infuses every concert with an intangible magic. Together, we’ve had a string of successes here at home and around the world, and I am particularly gratified to see that we’ve begun to stake a central place in the cultural life of New York.
“After concerts, people stop me on the street to say ‘thank you,’ although it is I who would like to thank our audience for their enthusiasm and dedication. In fact, I’ve felt incredible support from every quarter — from the musicians, the board, the dedicated staff, and now Matthew, with whom I look forward to writing the next chapter of the Philharmonic’s story. I’m profoundly grateful to all, and I would like to thank our donors for making so much possible. We are on an amazing journey.”
“This is a very positive step for the New York Philharmonic,” said Fiona Simon, chairperson of the Orchestra Committee. “Alan’s total commitment to the organization is evidenced behind the scenes as well as when he is on the podium. Generous of spirit, enthusiastic, and collegial, he has become a youthful symbol of the New York music scene. Alan’s innovative and enthusiastic approach to contemporary music is placing the Philharmonic at the vanguard of this genre. We look forward to music-making of a very high level over the coming years.”
Gilbert, the Yoko Nagae Ceschina Chair, has launched what New York magazine called “a fresh future for the Philharmonic.” The first native New Yorker to hold the post of music director, he has sought to make the orchestra a point of civic pride for the city and country.
“The Philharmonic is once again part of any conversation about the liveliness of the arts: a goal that Mr. Gilbert announced on arrival, then wasted no time in achieving,” The New York Times praised.
Gilbert’s creative approach to programming combines works in fresh and innovative ways. He has also forged artistic partnerships, introducing the positions of the Marie- Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence and the Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in- Residence, held in the 2012-13 season by Christopher Rouse and pianist Emanuel Ax, respectively; an annual, multi-week festival, which this season is “The Bach Variations” in collaboration with 92nd Street Y; and CONTACT!, a new-music series in which Philharmonic musicians perform works by today’s leading and emerging composers in New York’s more intimate venues.
In the 2012-13 season, Gilbert conducts world premieres by Anders Hillborg, Steven Stucky, and Christopher Rouse; presides over a cycle of Brahms’ complete symphonies and concertos; continues The Nielsen Project, a multi-year initiative to perform and record the Danish composer’s six symphonies and three concertos; conducts Bach’s Mass in B minor and an all-American program that includes Ives’s Fourth Symphony; and leads the orchestra on the Europe/Spring 2013 tour.
The season concludes with “June Journey: Gilbert’s Playlist,” four programs showcasing themes and ideas that Gilbert has introduced since becoming music director, including the season finale: a theatrical reimagining of Stravinsky’s “Petrushka” and “The Fairy’s Kiss” in collaboration with director/designer Doug Fitch, featuring New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Sara Mearns.
Last season’s highlights included performances of three Mahler symphonies, including the second, “Resurrection,” on A Concert for New York on Sept. 10; the orchestra’s first International Associates residency at London’s Barbican Centre as part of its Europe/Winter 2012 tour; the California/Spring 2012 tour; and Philharmonic 360, the Philharmonic and Park Avenue Armory’s acclaimed spatial-music program featuring Stockhausen’s Gruppen, about which The New York Times said: “Those who think classical music needs some shaking up routinely challenge music directors at major orchestras to think outside the box. That is precisely what Alan Gilbert did.”
High points of Gilbert’s first two Philharmonic seasons included the acclaimed performance of Janáček’s “The Cunning Little Vixen,” hailed by The Washington Post as “another victory,” building on 2010’s wildly successful staging of Ligeti’s “Le Grand Macabre,” which The New York Times called “an instant Philharmonic milestone”; world premieres of works by Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence Magnus Lindberg, John Corigliano, Christopher Rouse, and composers featured on CONTACT!; Gilbert’s Philharmonic debut as violin soloist in J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins; four concerts at Carnegie Hall; and four tours to Europe, as well as the Asia Horizons tour, which included the Philharmonic’s Vietnam debut at the historic Hanoi Opera House.
In September 2011, Gilbert became director of conducting and orchestral studies at The Juilliard School, where he is also the first holder of Juilliard’s William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies.
Conductor laureate of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and principal guest conductor of Hamburg’s NDR Symphony Orchestra, he regularly conducts leading orchestras nationally and internationally, such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the Berlin Philharmonic. His 2012-13 season engagements include appearances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, NDR Symphony Orchestra, and Berlin Staatskapelle.
Gilbert made his acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut in 2008 leading John Adams’ “Doctor Atomic”; the DVD and Blu-ray of this production received the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. Earlier releases garnered Grammy Award nominations and top honors from The Chicago Tribune and Gramophone magazine.
Gilbert studied at Harvard University, Curtis Institute of Music, and Juilliard, and he was assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra (1995-97). In May 2010 he received an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from Curtis, and in December 2011 he received Columbia University’s Ditson Conductor’s Award for his “exceptional commitment to the performance of works by American composers and to contemporary music.”
Born in New York City on Feb. 23, 1967, he is the son of Michael Gilbert and Yoko Takebe, both Philharmonic violinists (the elder Gilbert retired in 2001). A first cousin, Miki Takebe, is the Philharmonic’s vice president of operations.
From childhood, Gilbert studied violin, viola and piano. During his Harvard years, he also took instruction from violin virtuoso Masuko Ushioda, who continues to teach gifted young violinists at the New England Conservatory of Music.