Van Zweden to hit the ground running in first Philharmonic season

Tue Feb 13, 2018 at 10:54 pm
Jaap Van Zweden opens his first season as music director of the New York Philharmonic September xx.

Jaap Van Zweden opens his first season as music director of the New York Philharmonic September 21.

New York Philharmonic audiences have been living with some slow-moving suspense in the year since Jaap van Zweden was named the music director designate, waiting to see what would be on tap when he takes the runs of the orchestra next season.

Those who have been anticipating had their patience rewarded Tuesday afternoon, when van Zweden and president and CEO Deborah Borda announced the 2018-19 season at an event in the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse.

Not just maintaining the excellent orchestra Alan Gilbert handed over to him, van Zweden is putting numerous, prominent, and exciting marks on next season’s musical landscape. This starts with the September 20 opening gala concert and the week of performances that immediately follow: van Zweden’s first downbeat of the season will fall on the world premiere of a piece commissioned by the Philharmonic from Ashley Fure, then Daniil Trifonov will play Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major, and the concert will conclude with the Rite of Spring.

For the concerts of September 21, 22, and 25, Trifonov will play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, then on September 27-28, the concerts will pair the Symphony No. 8 of Bruckner with another commissioned world premiere from another young pianist-composer, Conrad Tao.

October begins with another world premiere of a Philharmonic commission, Agamemnon, one of Louis Andriessen’s very few works for full orchestra. Leila Josefowicz will then play Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto, then the orchestra finishes with the composer’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments and Debussy’s La Mer.

While the mixture of old and new is not as standard as it should be in the classical world, it’s also to be expected with the Philharmonic. Van Zweden emphasized the personal importance of this idea, saying “I’m not such a fan of separating new music, it’s all in our DNA.” To that end, he is continuing the commitment that Gilbert brought to new music, both altering and expanding it.

CONTACT!, the current new music series, will be no more after this season. Replacing it will be two initiatives: “Sound ON,” with performances from Philharmonic musicians at the Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and “Nightcap,” events in the Kaplan Penthouse that will start at 10:30 and follow selected subscription concerts. Both will be hosted by violist and Meet The Composer podcast host Nadia Sirota, who will be taking the newly created position of creative partner.

The Nightcap concerts will be curated by different musicians in turn; Andriessen, Tao, Gabriel Kahane, Matthias Pintscher (who will be making his subscription series conducting debut with concerts Feb. 21-23 that will include the local premiere of his own mar’eh, with violinist Renaud Capuçon, along with the complete Firebird), John Adams, and John Corigliano.

The Sound ON programs will be organized around three major events—Borda called them “pillars”—the October Andriessen premiere, “New York Stories: Threads of Our City,” and “Music of Conscience.”

Agamemnon is part of “The Art of Andriessen,” which is rounded off with his TAO, led by David Robertson, October 10, and 12-13. “New York Stories” is centered around the world premiere performances of Fire in my mouth, by Julia Wolfe, based on horrific 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and part of what Wolfe described as her exploration of labor in America (as heard for example in her Pulitzer winning Anthracite Fields).

“Music of Conscience” will cover several programs at the end of the season, and concerts will include the pairing of Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (May 22-23, 25, and 28); Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1, his “personal response to the AIDS crisis,” which will recall not only the era but the original 1992 performances, when attendees inscribed the names of AIDS victims they knew on fabric that became part of the AIDS Memorial Quilt (May 30 and June 1); and concludes with the last subscription concerts, June 6-8, with the world premiere of an opera from David Lang, prisoner of the state. Based on Beethoven’s Fidelio, prisoner of the state explores the dramatic and musical nooks and crannies of the earlier work; soprano Julie Mathevet will debut with the orchestra, and will be joined by tenor Alan Oke, baritone Jarrett Ott, and bass-baritone Eric Owens—Elkhanah Pulitzer will direct these David Geffen Hall peformances.

Along with facing the contemporary world through music, the Philharmonic will be engaging with the New York City it finds outside the walls of the concert hall. A new initiative, “Phil The Hall,” will present one-hour concerts April 4-6, with van Zweden conducting; all seats will be priced at $5 for New York City’s community and service professionals. The conductor will also lead the free Memorial Day Concert, Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony again, in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and the free Concerts in the Parks in June, 2019.

A further initiative, and perhaps the most unexpected, is that the orchestra is launching a partnership with Decca Gold, a Universal Music imprint for classical music in the U.S. The first release comes February 23, with a CD of live performances of Beethoven’s Symphonies 5 and 7. The label will be taking over the orchestra’s own digital label and will release six additional new recordings during the upcoming season.

Baritone Matthias Goerne will be the Artist in Residence, singing Eisler’s Ernste Gesänge and other lieder on May 17. He will be accompanied by Trifonov, who will join Philharmonic musicians in Brahms Piano Quintet. May 21, 23, and 26, Goerne will sing Adam’s The Wound-Dresser in between Ives’ Central Park in the Dark and Brahm’s First Symphony—van Zweden conducts.

Joshua Bell will play the solos in Corigliano’s The Red Violin, with live score to film, October 16-18 and 20 (other live scores with films will include There Will Be Blood, Sep. 12-13, and 2001: A Space Odyssey Sep. 14-15). Jurak Valcuha will lead concertmaster Frank Huang in the Barber Violin Concerto, along with Korngold and Rachmaninoff (Oct. 13, Nov. 1 and 3); Ivan Fischer will conduct Schubert and Beethoven, November 7-8 and 10, with Anthony McGill playing the clarinet solos in an orchestration of The Shepard on the Rock; baroque conductor Emmanuelle Haïm makes her Philharmonic debut Nov. 21-23, with music from Handel and Rameau.

Zubin Mehta returns February 14-16, with a program of Webern and Schubert’s Symphony No. 9, “Great”; cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pipa virtuoso Wu Man will play the American premiere of Zhao Lin’s Concerto for Pipa and Cello, March 6-9—Long Yo conducts; March 13, 15-16, and 19, Manfred Honeck conducts Mozart, including the Piano Concerto No. 27 with Richard Goode, and the Requiem, with soprano Joelle Harvey, mezzo Sasha Cooke, tenor Ben Bliss, and bass Matthew Rose. In early Spring, van Zweden conducts Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, April 11-13, and Semyon Bychkov delivers the American premieres of Thomas Larcher’s Symphony No. 2, along with Brahms’ Symphony No. 4, April 24-25, 27, and 30. Prior to the Music of Conscience series, audiences can enjoy classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons, with live scores, May 17-18.

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