Through rich collaborations with contemporary composers and soloists, large-scale theatrical events, and superlative performances of the symphonic canon, New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert “has made an indelible mark on the orchestra’s history and that of the city itself” (The New Yorker). As he prepares to step down at the end of this season, Gilbert looks back at some of his favorite performances with the orchestra.
Magnus Lindberg: Kraft
Mahler: Symphony No. 5
Gustav Mahler was Music Director of this Orchestra and also one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. We have played quite a few of his works over my tenure to honor this most important musician, not only for the New York Philharmonic, but for everybody who loves music.
Janáček: The Cunning Little Vixen
What struck me when I first came to know the opera The Cunning Little Vixen was the music itself. It’s so incredibly beautiful and human and ambiguous in the way that life is … it really grabbed me.
Brahms: Symphony No. 3
I love Brahms’s Third Symphony perhaps the most of all of Brahms’s symphonies. It is introspective and quite sad, and rich with an ambiguity in a way that makes it particularly special.
Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring
Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is an iconic work that changed the course of music. The challenge now is to make it as fresh as when it was premiered. We can understand why it was so shocking, provocative, and unusual in 1913. This piece is a thrill and a joy every time you play it — there’s something about it that never gets old — and you have to find the color and to bring the story alive in a way that is powerfully pictorial.
Bach: Mass in B minor
Bach’s Mass in B minor is a consummate masterpiece…when I hear it I feel humble as a musician. No matter what you believe, no matter what your religious credo — whether or not you even have a religious credo — it’s impossible not to be incredibly moved by this music. It speaks from one human directly into the heart of another.
Ives: Symphony No. 4
This is Ives’s most far-reaching work…it’s so crazy and so hysterical that it’s amusing. How could music sound this way? It’s a real organized chaos. So many things are going on simultaneously with no regard for other things happening, which makes it exciting to listen to. I’m not sure what the message is, but it feels cosmic and true.
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9
The message of Beethoven’s Ninth is eternal: it speaks of freedom and the power of the human spirit. To be able to do this work, to add it to the list of Beethoven symphonies that I’ve been privileged to do with the Orchestra, is particularly exciting.
Bruckner: Symphony No. 8
There are few composers I could conduct every day for the rest of my life and be satisfied as a musician. Bruckner is one of them. There’s a kind of suspension of time in which all of the elements that you expect from a symphony are there but they unfold at a pace that he controls very, very exquisitely and with full intention.
John Adams: Absolute Jest
John Adams is the dean of American composers. The kind of personal voice that he has found is absolutely vivid and unmistakable. I particularly like that he takes a modern, American sense of expression and uses it to build on the symphonic tradition that goes back to Bruckner in a completely organic way.
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Please note that the first three pieces are only available on SoundCloud and thus do not appear on the full list.