New York Philharmonic eyes a gradual baton handoff in transitional 2017-18 season

Wed Feb 08, 2017 at 2:59 pm
Jaap van Zweden becomes music director designate of the New York Philharmonic in the 2017-18 season. File photo: Chris Lee

Jaap van Zweden becomes music director designate of the New York Philharmonic in the 2017-18 season. File photo: Chris Lee

For the 2017–18 season, the New York Philharmonic is going to be sparing with the incoming Jaap van Zweden. The Dutch conductor becomes music director designate next season with the September 19 opening Gala Concert—featuring Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. Van Zweden will be leading just three subscription programs during his interim season, before officially becoming Philharmonic music director in the fall of 2018.

After the gala, concerts of September 22–23 will add Philip Glass’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, with Katia and Marielle Labèque, to the Mahler symphony. Then, over two programs in the winter, van Zweden will lead the local premiere of John Luther Adams’ Dark Waves, along with Act I of Die Walküre, with soprano Heidi Melton, tenor Simon O’Neill, and bass John Relyea (Feb. 14–15 & 17); and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1, with Yuja Wang and The Rite of Spring (Feb. 28, March 1–3). Audiences in Michigan—at the University Musical Society—and on the orchestra’s winter tour of Asia will see as much of van Zweden as New Yorkers will.

That leaves a substantial complement of guest conductors. Alan Gilbert will lead the orchestra for the 175th birthday concerts, December 6–9. The programs will feature the Beethoven Fifth Symphony and Weber’s Oberon Overture, which the fledgling orchestra played at its debut in 1842, along with principal players oboist Liang Wang, clarinetist Anthony McGill, bassoonist Judith LeClair, and hornist Philip Myers soloing in Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante for Winds.

Gilbert, with Leonard Slatkin, will also take part in the in-season festival, “Bernstein’s Philharmonic.” Running from October 25 through November 14, this celebration of Leonard Bernstein as conductor, composer, and public musician will present his three symphonies, Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs, and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Strauss’ Don Quixote.

The roster of returning guest conductors includes Semyon Bychkov, who in two concerts in May will lead pieces from Shostakovich, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Strauss, and Berio’s Sinfonia, with the Roomful of Teeth vocal ensemble making their Philharmonic debut (May 17–22 and 24–26). Christoph von Dohnányi leads the world premiere of Evening Land, from Bent Sørensen, along with Brahms and Mozart (Nov. 30, Dec. 1–2); Charles Dutoit comes in January 17–20 with music by Ravel and Debussy; April 19, 21, and 24 sees Bernard Haitink leading the Philharmonic debut of pianist Till Fellner in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22, with Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9; Manfred Honeck returns with the Sibelius Violin Concerto, with Nikolaj Znaider, and music from Dvorak and Tchaikovsky, May 3–5; Susanna Mälkki will conduct violinist Baiba Skirde in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, La Mer, and the New York concert debut of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Helix (Jan. 11–13), and concertmaster Frank Huang will lead the orchestra in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 (Sheryl Staples will solo), Eine kleine Nachtmusik, and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings (May 31, Jun. 1–2, 5–6).

Znaider will be making his conducting debut with the Philharmonic May 10–12, with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 and Elgar’s Cello Concerto, with Jian Wang making his subscription debut. Edward Gardner will also make his Philharmonic conducting debut, April 26–28, with the Bartók Concerto for Orchestra, Sibelius’ Pohjola’s Daughter, and Debussy’s Fantasie for Piano and Orchestra—soloist in the Fantasie will be Leif Ove Andsnes, the season’s new Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence.

In concerts Oct. 12–17, Andsnes will play the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 4, accompanied by conductor Paavo Järvi (the program includes Schumann and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5). On May 2 the pianist will play a recital of Nielsen, Sibelius, Beethoven, Schubert, and Jörg Widmann

Salonen will serve his third and final season as the Marie-Josée Composer-in-Residence. Along with the performance of Helix, he will curate a project for the 2018 NY Phil Biennial, contribute to planning for the Philharmonic’s ongoing CONTACT! new music series, and will conduct the world premiere of music from Anna Thorvaldsdottir (the orchestras’ Kravis Emerging Composer), and Beethoven, April 4–6. (Both CONTACT! and the Biennial will feature world premieres, with all details of each series to be announced at a later date.)

Other notable programs will include András Schiff conducting and performing Haydn, Bartók, Bach, and Schumann (the Piano Concerto) October 19–21; Andsnes playing Britten’s Piano Concerto on a concert program with Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 (Antonio Pappano conducts and Kent Tritle plays the organ in the Symphony), Feb. 8–10; Philharmonic associate conductor Joshua Gersen making his debut Feb. 22–24, with Barber’s Adagio for Strings, the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, and Copland’s Symphony No. 3; and conductor Richard Kaufman making his own debut April 11–17, leading music by Mozart as the live score for a screening of the film Amadeus. That film concert series will draw big crowds to Lincoln Center in September and October, when David Newman will lead the orchestra in John Williams’ complete scores to accompany Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens (various dates from Sep. 15 to Oct. 7).

For more information and tickets, go to nyphil.org/concerts-tickets/ (212) 875–5656


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