Gilbert’s final Philharmonic season looks to be a year of transition

Thu Feb 04, 2016 at 8:56 am
Alan Gilbert will lead the world premiere xxx in the New York Philharmonic's 2016-17 season. Photo: Chris Lee

Alan Gilbert will open the New York Philharmonic’s 2016-17 season with a gala concert September 21. Photo: Chris Lee

The New York Philharmonic announced their 2016–17 season on Wednesday morning, their eighth and last such announcement for Alan Gilbert’s era as musical director. While by design certain details remain to be filled in, on paper the season promises to be one of the most interesting and broadly ranging of Gilbert’s tenure.

At a press conference in the Rubinstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, Gilbert remarked on what will be his final season as music director. “I like the idea of combining older and newer works,” he said, and the season draws a consistent, continuous line from the past to the present and through to the future. There will be four world premieres and almost a dozen American or New York premieres, with almost all the new works appearing in juxtaposition with older music.

The season culminates in a final four weeks of subscription concerts that will be Gilbert’s valedictory programs, and about which he expressed particular excitement: wrenching drama with Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw and the Beethoven Ninth Symphony (May 3–9); a concert that brings together composer-in-residence Esa-Pekka Salonen, Kravis emerging composer Anna Thorvladsdottir, and 2016–17 artist-in-residence violinist Leonidas Kavakos with the Brahms Violin Concerto and the NY premieres of Thorvaldsdottir’s Aeriality and Salonenon’s Wing on Wing (May 19–20, and 23); a staged concert performance of Das Rheingold, with Eric Owens as Wotan, Christopher Purves as Alberich, Jamie Barton as Fricka, Russell Thomas as Loge, and Morris Robinson as Fasolt (June 1, 3, and 6); and a series of season finale concerts June 8–10, offering in Gilbert’s words, “themes of inclusion, communication, harmony, and the meaning of music,” featuring artists and music from around the world to be announced.

Prior to that, Gilbert will lead subscription concerts that begin with the September 21 opening gala, featuring Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World,” Gershwin’s Concerto in F, and John Corigiliano’s Stomp (Dvorak’s symphony will be played with various other works September 22–24, and 27). The Dvorak symphony will be the center of “The New World Initiative,” a season-long, citywide concept that will celebrate both the composer’s and the orchestra’s 175th birthday. As part of the initiative, the orchestra, which gave the world premiere of the symphony December 16, 1893, will play the “New World” throughout the city, in concerts, through education projects and community outreach, at a Young People’s Concert and in Young People’s Concerts for Schools, and in the free Concerts in the Parks.

There are further New York themes in the season. The “Art of the Score” concerts of films with the soundtracks performed live will be, West Side Story, conducted by David Newman, September 13–15; Manhattan, with Gilbert, September 16–17; and Justin Freer conducting Henry Mancini’s score of Breakfast at Tiffany’s May 11.

In other Gilbert-led concerts, popular violinist Lisa Batiashvili solos in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, along with Dvorak’s Ninth, September 22–24. Mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena will make her Philharmonic debut September 29-October 1, singing Berlioz’ Les Nuits d’été, a program that includes Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. On October 5–8, Lang Lang plays Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in a program with Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre and Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta.

Spanning December 28 to January 3, Gilbert will premiere a Philharmonic commission from Wynton Marsalis, and lead Copland’s Quiet City and William Bolcom’s Trombone Concerto, played by Philharmonic principal Joseph Alessi. Gilbert will also premiere a new violin concerto from Lera Auerbach, with Kavakos soloing, and conduct Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 March 1–3. Prior to the orchestra’s 2017 Spring tour, the month of March will finish with a program of John Adams’ recent Absolute Jest and his classic Harmonielehre, the 9th to the 11th, then March 15–18, Gilbert leads a concert of Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine, the local premiere of Salonen’s Cello Concerto, with Yo-Yo Ma, and Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique.

Guest conductors will be headed by Semyon Bychkov, who will lead an in-season festival: “Beloved Friend-Tchaikovsky and his World,” January 24 through February 11. Featured works in the festival will be Symphonies Nos. 5, 6 and the Manfred Symphony, Piano Concertos No. 1 with Kirill Gerstein, and No. 2 with Yefim Bronfman. Bronfman will be at the center of a chamber music concert at 92Y, January 29, which will feature Souvenir de Florence and the Piano Trio.

Incoming music director Jaap van Zweden will be in town November 17–19, leading the NY premiere of Julia Adolphe’s Viola Concerto, played by principal Cynthia Phelps, along with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 and Wagner’s Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin.

Along with playing in front of the orchestra, Kavakos will conduct the concerts of October 20–22 and 25—he will lead Bach’s Violin Concerto, BWV 1052 from the violin, and from the podium Sibelius’ Pohjola’s Daughter and the Schumann Symphony No. 2. Kavakos will also play a recital February 8 in his ongoing partnership with pianist Yuja Wang: the program will be Medtner’s Two Canzonen mit Tänzen, Schubert’s Fantasy in C Major, the Debussy Sonata for Violin and Piano, and Bartók’s Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano.

Salonen, who is also involved in determining the CONTACT! new music series for the upcoming season (details to be announced), will conduct two programs. At the Park Avenue Armory, October 13–14, he will lead “Circle Map,” four pieces by Kaija Saariaho (three of them local or American premieres), with soprano Jennifer Zetlan and clarinetist Kari Kriiku. On April 27 and 29, the program will be Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 2, Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra, and the American premiere of a new Tansy Davies work for four horns, featuring principal Philip Myers and R. Allen Spanjer, Leelanee Sterrett, and Howard Wall.

Former music director Zubin Mehta returns November 3–5, accompanying sitar player Anoushka Shankar, who will solo in her father Ravi’s Raga-Mala Concerto No. 2. That program also has the Schubert “Great” Symphony in C Major. Manfred Honeck directs a concert of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with artist-in-association Inon Barnatan, February 15–8. On February 22, and 24–25, the esteemed Herbert Blomstedt will celebrate his 90th birthday with the Beethoven Symphonies No. 7 and 8. Pianist Daniil Trifonov will play Mozart’s Piano Concert No. 25, accompanied by Vladimir Jurowski, who will also lead Ravel’s complete music for Daphnis et Chloé, November 9–12.

Barton, Purves, Kozena, and Shankar will be making the Philharmonic debuts in the 2016–17 season. Familiar returning artists beyond the above will include pianist Jonathan Biss, who plays Timo Andres’ Piano Concerto No. 3, “The Blind Bannister,” and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2, April 20–22, and 25, under Courtney Lewis; Augustin Hadelich plays the Dvorak Violin Concerto, May 25–27, on an all-Czech program conducted by Jakub Hrusa, himself making his Philharmonic debut; violinist Nikolaj Znaider plays Beethoven’s Concerto with Ivan Fischer conducting, November 23, and 25–26; and principal flutist Robert Langevin plays the Flute Concerto No. 2 in an all-Mozart program, December 1–3, conducted by Bernard Labadie. Those concerts will also feature the Philharmonic debut of soprano Ying Fang, who will sing Exsultate, jubilate.

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