Alan Gilbert to leave Philharmonic in 2017
The New York Philharmonic announced Friday that music director Alan Gilbert will resign at the end of the 2016–2017 season, ending a tenure that began in 2009.
“After eight years in such an all-consuming job, the time will be right to hand off the responsibility for taking the New York Philharmonic through its next great chapter leading to the reopening of the hall,” said Gilbert in a released statement, referring to renovations to the orchestra’s home, Avery Fisher Hall, scheduled to begin in 2019. Gilbert, 47, also told the New York Times that this was a personal decision. “As I’ve thought about it, the next logical step—it’s just longer than I want to stay around. It’s actually that simple.” Staying on through the renovations would have meant, at minimum, a thirteen year tenure.
“If anything, ” he added, “I would certainly rather leave slightly too early than slightly too late.”
Leaving in 2017 means that the next music director will face both the daunting task and fruitful opportunity of leading the orchestra for at least two seasons in venues all over New York City, and beyond. Not accounting for scheduling issues, Carnegie Hall is the natural first step, and was the orchestra’s musical residency prior to the 1962 opening of Lincoln Center.
The orchestra, under Gilbert, has already shown that it can play on the road, and bring in substantial new audiences, with the Philharmonic 360 concert at the Park Avenue Armory in 2012. That was one of several substantial innovations that Gilbert has brought to the Philharmonic: others are the CONTACT! series of new music concerts, held in smaller halls throughout the city; semi-staged theatrical performances of Le Grand Macabre, The Cunning Little Vixen, and Petrushka that made imaginative use of Avery Fisher’s limited space; and the Biennial Festival—Gilbert will consult to the new music director for the 2017–18 Biennial.
Under Gilbert, the Philharmonic also returned to making recordings, with “The Nielsen Project” for Denmark’s Dacapo record label. The third release in what will be a four-CD series arrives Tuesday, February 10 with live vesrins of Nielsen’s Symphony No. 5 and No. 6.
Philharmonic President Matthew VanBesien told the Times that the orchestra will have a new music director in place for the start of the 2017–18 season, “We’re going to get to it, very quickly.”
Speculation is sure to fall immediately on Esa-Pekka Salonen, whose current contract with the Philharmonia ends, with ideal timing, in the 2016–17 season, and who will have a substantial presence with the Philharmonic in the 2015–16 season. Although the search for a music director is almost always a confidential process, David Robertson was a previous possibility to replace Lorin Maazel (he will be music director with the St. Louis Symphony through 2017–18), and Pablo Heras-Casado, who made his debut with the New York Philharmonic in the 2013–14 season, finishes his current tenure with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in 2016–17.
Whomever the new music director is, he or she shall take the reins in unusual and exciting circumstances.