Wednesday, October 07, 2009

NY Magazine weighs in on Alan Gilbert

There's not much new to note in Justin Davidson's piece on Alan Gilbert's first month with the New York Philharmonic that hasn't been acknowledged elsewhere in the local press. Davidson admires the changes Gilbert has made thus far and his ambitious opening series of concerts, noting that programming Mahler's Third Symphony and Charles Ives' Second Symphony was "an Alpine lineup" and that either work could have been the highlight of a season. Of Gilbert's proclivity toward speaking from the podium, Davidson notes:
When the potentially frightening name of Arnold Schoenberg appeared on a program, Gilbert grabbed a microphone and spoke for about ten minutes, using the orchestra as a deluxe audio-visual aid. Talking conductors often wind up delivering shticks or sermons; he led a light, quick tour through the dense melodic foliage and nitrogen-rich harmonies in Schoenberg’s early tone poem Pelleas und Melisande. I have no idea whether it helped listeners grasp the score [ed.: it helped me], but I suspect it won many over to Gilbert. It helped that he programmed the piece for the best of reasons—because he loves it, and it is rarely performed—and conducted it with panoramic ardor.
I realize it's only been a month, but I'm more convinced that Gilbert is a conductor in the Bernstein mold, with Bernstein's gifts for connecting with audiences, though perhaps without as much of the great maestro's tendency to be overly emotional. As for me, I'm about ready to park myself outside Gilbert's home and hold a boom box over my head, blasting Mahler's Symphony No. 1.

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