Now Entering Second Season as Chief Conductor of Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Alan Gilbert Conducts NDR’s Opening Week Concerts (Sep 1–5) & 75th-Anniversary Celebrations (Oct 30–Nov 1); Also Launches Concertgebouw Orchestra’s Season (Sep 10 & 11)
Alan Gilbert and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra (photo: Peter Hundert, NDR)
In his inaugural season as Chief Conductor of Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Alan Gilbert succeeded in “taking this marvelous ensemble to the next level” (Klassik Begeistert). Now launching his second season with the orchestra, over the coming weeks Gilbert looks forward to leading both its Opening Week concerts (Sep 1–5) and its 75th-anniversary celebrations (Oct 30–Nov 1). Featuring a complete Brahms symphonic cycle and collaborations with Lisa Batiashvili, Leonidas Kavakos and Frank Peter Zimmermann, these engagements bookend the Grammy-winning conductor’s return to Amsterdam, where he opens the Concertgebouw Orchestra’s new season with an evening of Gershwin (Sep 10 & 11). Each only an hour in length, the orchestras’ respective programs will be performed with appropriate safety measures and without intermission.
NDR Opening Week, 75th Anniversary and more
To open their 2020-21 season together at the Elbphilharmonie, the orchestra’s already iconic new home, Gilbert and the NDR undertake a complete Brahms symphonic cycle and both Prokofiev’s violin concertos in seven performances over the course of four days (Sep 1, 2, 4 & 5). Streaming live at the orchestra’s website (Sep 1 at 2pm EDT/8pm CEST), their Opening Night program pairs Brahms’s Second Symphony with Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto, featuring Lisa Batiashvili, one of the conductor’s regular collaborators, as soloist. The Georgian-born violinist rejoins Gilbert and the orchestra to reprise the concerto twice more, while their remaining four concerts feature Leonidas Kavakos, winner of the Léonie Sonning Music Prize, in Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto. Each of the NDR’s seven Opening Week performances concludes with one of the four Brahms symphonies. The great Romantic composer was a native of Hamburg, and it was with his First Symphony that Gilbert inaugurated his NDR tenure last fall, drawing a five-star review from Classical Source. Similarly, when he and the orchestra performed the composer’s Third Symphony this past February, the Hamburger Abendblatt marveled:
“Brahms’s Third made Gilbert and his ‘family’ sing with the organic ease that audibly shapes their music-making. … This is how we love our Brahms, we northerners.”
Click here to see Gilbert lead the NDR in Brahms’s Third Symphony.
To celebrate the NDR’s landmark 75th anniversary, Gilbert is scheduled to give an “Ideas on Music” talk (Oct 31) and to conduct two programs featuring Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. During his eight seasons as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, Gilbert led a “hypercharged” performance of the Russian composer’s Fourth Symphony at the orchestra’s “blistering Disney Hall debut” (Los Angeles Times) and a “magisterial account” of his Fifth that “culminated in breathless, exuberant playing of the symphony’s thrilling final moments” (New York Times).
In Hamburg, in a recreation of the NDR’s very first concert on the same date 75 years earlier, in 1945, the Tchaikovsky shares the program with Beethoven’s “Egmont” Overture and Brahms’s Double Concertofor Violin and Cello, with Julia Fischer and Daniel Müller-Schott as soloists (Oct 30). Two days later, Gilbert couples Tchaikovsky’s symphony with Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, featuring Frank Peter Zimmermann, another of Gilbert’s most frequent musical collaborators (Nov 1). It was with Zimmermann that he and the NDR recently recorded the Shostakovich violin concertos, scoring the conductor his fifth Grammy nomination and prompting BBC Music magazine to observe:
“These recordings stand out as formidable achievements. They match technical mastery at the highest level with profound insight. No less impressive is the compelling interaction between Zimmermann and the excellent NDR Elbphilharmonie under Alan Gilbert.”
Gilbert rounds out his opening weeks with the NDR with concerts coupling his interpretation of Beethoven’s mighty “Eroica” Symphony with Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, for which he and the orchestra will be joined by MacArthur award-winning cellist Alisa Weilerstein (Sep 24 & 27).
Season-opening concerts with the Concertgebouw Orchestra
Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw Orchestra is one of the many venerable European ensembles where Gilbert is a favored guest. Three years ago, he and the orchestra premiered Boundless (Homage to L.B.), a new commission from Dutch composer Joey Roukens, and their performance features on the Concertgebouw’s album release Horizons 9. Now Gilbert returns to open the orchestra’s 2020-21 season, with four performances of an all-Gershwin program combining the Cuban Overture, Catfish Row, Rhapsody in Blue and Rialto Ripples Rag. The composer was a native New Yorker like Gilbert himself, whose performances of Gershwin’s music with the New York Philharmonic were hailed as the “quintessential Gershwin” (New York Concert Review).
Royal Swedish Opera, streaming and more in Stockholm
Gilbert was recently named as the next Music Director of the Royal Swedish Opera, where he looks forward to starting his tenure with Wagner’s Die Meistersinger next spring. A major player on the opera scene, the conductor has led productions at such leading companies as the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Zurich Opera, Vienna State Opera, Los Angeles Opera, and Santa Fe Opera, where he was the inaugural Music Director.
During the pandemic, Gilbert has conducted a number of live-streamed concerts with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Royal Swedish Opera Orchestra, Swedish Radio Symphony, and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, where he is the Conductor Laureate. Several of these performances are still available for streaming on demand. Click here to see him lead the NDR and soloists Igor Levit and Pedro Miguel Freire in a program of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Thomas Adès; here for Schubert, Debussy and Wagner with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and dramatic soprano Nina Stemme; and here for the same orchestra’s seasonal pairing of Copland’s Appalachian Spring with Schumann’s “Spring” Symphony.
While quarantining at home in Stockholm, Gilbert hosted a series of Conductor Talks on Zoom. The three hourlong Facebook Live webcasts reached almost half a million viewers in total. Click here to see his first conversation, with fellow conductors Karina Canellakis, Daniel Harding and Sir Simon Rattle; here for his second, with Marin Alsop, Sir Antonio Pappano and Esa-Pekka Salonen; and here for his third, with nonagenarian maestro Herbert Blomstedt.
Sep 1 (8pm), Sep 2 (6:30pm) Opening Night
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 1 (with Lisa Batiashvili, violin)
Brahms: Symphony No. 2 The season-opening event on Sep 1 will stream live online at 2pm EDT/8pm CEST.