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Bravo! Vail: Alan Gilbert Conducts Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet

Recorded July 20, 2014

Bravo! Vail: Alan Gilbert Conducts Romeo and Juliet


Alan Gilbert

The 2016–17 season marks Alan Gilbert’s eighth and final season as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. The first native New Yorker to hold the post, he has sought to make the Orchestra a point of pride for the city and country. The Financial Times called him “the imaginative maestro-impresario in residence.”

Mr. Gilbert and the Philharmonic have forged artistic partnerships, introducing the positions of The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence and The Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence — held in the 2016–17 season by Esa-Pekka Salonen and violinist Leonidas Kavakos, respectively — as well as Artist-in-Association, currently held by pianist Inon Barnatan, who inaugurated the role in the 2014–15 season; an annual festival, which this season is Beloved Friend — Tchaikovsky and His World, featuring Russian-born Semyon Bychkov conducting works by Tchaikovsky as well as composers he was influenced by and whom he influenced; CONTACT!, the new-music series; and the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, an exploration of today’s music by a wide range of contemporary and modern composers. During his tenure the Philharmonic launched the New York Philharmonic Global Academy, partnerships with cultural institutions to offer training of pre-professional musicians, often alongside performance residencies. These include the Shanghai Orchestra Academy and Residency Partnership and collaborations with Santa Barbara’s Music Academy of the West and the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. Alan Gilbert and the Philharmonic also launched a five-year partnership with the University Musical Society at the University of Michigan.

Alan Gilbert concludes his final season as Music Director with four programs that reflect signature themes of his tenure, featuring works that hold particular meaning for him and musicians with whom he has formed close relationships. These include a pairing of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw; Wagner’s complete Das Rheingold in concert; the New York Premiere of Composer-in-Residence Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Wing on Wing alongside Artist-in-Residence Leonidas Kavakos in Brahms’s Violin Concerto and the New York Premiere of Aeriality by Anna Thorvaldsdottir, the second Kravis Emerging Composer, an honor introduced during Alan Gilbert’s tenure; and an exploration of how music can effect positive change in the world. Other 2016–17 season highlights include four World Premieres; Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, From the New World, as part of the New York Philharmonic’s 175th anniversary celebrations; Mahler’s Fourth Symphony and Handel’s Messiah; the World Premiere presentation of Gershwin’s score to Manhattan, performed live to the film; Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre; a concert with friends celebrating his 50th birthday; works by John Adams marking the composer’s 70th birthday; and the EUROPE / SPRING 2017 tour. As part of the New York Philharmonic Global Academy, he will lead the Orchestra in its third annual performance residency through the Shanghai Orchestra Academy and Residency Partnership, and will lead the Philharmonic and Academy Festival Orchestra together in Santa Barbara through the partnership with Santa Barbara’s Music Academy of the West.

Last season’s Philharmonic highlights included R. Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben to welcome newly appointed Concertmaster Frank Huang; Carnegie Hall’s 125th anniversary Opening Night Gala; premieres by William Bolcom, Franck Krawczyk, Magnus Lindberg, and Marc Neikrug; works by Sibelius in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth; as well as Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and an all-Mozart program. He also co-curated the second NY PHIL BIENNIAL — during which he conducted works by Boulez and Stucky, in tribute to the late composers, as well as premieres by William Bolcom, John Corigliano, and Per Nørgård, the second recipient of The Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music at the New York Philharmonic, an honor introduced during Alan Gilbert’s tenure. The Music Director also performed violin in Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time alongside Philharmonic principals and Mr. Barnatan. Under the New York Philharmonic Global Academy he led the Orchestra in its second performance residency in Shanghai and made his second appearance conducting the Music Academy of the West’s Academy Festival Orchestra.

Previous high points among Mr. Gilbert’s Philharmonic appearances include critically celebrated staged productions such as Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre (2010) and Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen (2011), both cited as the top cultural events of their respective years; Philharmonic 360 at Park Avenue Armory (2012), the acclaimed spatial music program featuring Stockhausen’s Gruppen; A Dancer’s Dream: Two Works by Stravinsky (2013, and later presented in movie theaters internationally); a staged production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd starring Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson that was broadcast on Live From Lincoln Center, earning Mr. Gilbert an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Music Direction (2014); and the U.S. Premiere of a staging of Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake featuring Oscar winner Marion Cotillard (2015). Other highlights include the first two editions of the NY PHIL BIENNIAL; World Premieres of works by Christopher Rouse, Magnus Lindberg, Peter Eötvös , and composers featured on CONTACT!; the score from 2001: A Space Odyssey, performed live to the film; Mahler’s Second Symphony, Resurrection, on A Concert for New York on September 10; the Verdi Requiem; the conclusion of The Nielsen Project, the multi-year initiative to perform and record the Danish composer’s symphonies and concertos; Mr. Gilbert’s Philharmonic debut as violin soloist in J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins; six concerts at Carnegie Hall; and ten tours around the world. In August 2015 he led the Mahler Chamber Orchestra in the U.S. Stage Premiere of George Benjamin’s Written on Skin, co-presented by the New York Philharmonic and Lincoln Center, the inaugural production of the Lincoln Center–New York Philharmonic Opera Initiative.

Conductor laureate of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and former principal guest conductor of Hamburg’s NDR Symphony Orchestra, he regularly conducts leading orchestras nationally and internationally, such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France. He has appeared at The Metropolitan, Los Angeles, Zurich, Royal Swedish, and Santa Fe opera companies. This season Mr. Gilbert returns to the foremost European orchestras, records Beethoven’s complete piano concertos with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and Inon Barnatan, and conducts Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, his first time leading a staged opera there.

In September 2011 Alan Gilbert became Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies at The Juilliard School, where he is also the first holder of Juilliard’s William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies. He made his acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut in 2008 leading John Adams’s Doctor Atomic; the DVD and Blu-ray of this production received the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. Renée Fleming’s Decca recording Poèmes, on which he conducted, received a 2013 Grammy Award. Earlier releases garnered Grammy Award nominations and top honors from the Chicago Tribune and Gramophone magazine. He received his second Emmy nomination for Outstanding Music Direction for Sinatra: Voice for a Century, broadcast on Live From Lincoln Center in 2015. Mr. Gilbert conducted Messiaen’s Des Canyons aux étoiles on a recent album recorded live at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.

Alan Gilbert studied at Harvard University, The Curtis Institute of Music, and Juilliard and was assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra (1995–97). He received Honorary Doctor of Music degrees from Curtis in May 2010 and from Westminster Choir College in May 2016, and in December 2011 he received Columbia University’s Ditson Conductor’s Award for his “exceptional commitment to the performance of works by American composers and to contemporary music.” In 2014 he was elected to The American Academy of Arts & Sciences, in 2015 he received a Foreign Policy Association Medal for his commitment to cultural diplomacy and was named Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in 2016 he received New York University’s Lewis Rudin Award for Exemplary Service to New York City in recognition of his leadership in making New York one of the world’s great centers for music and the arts.

Relive the magic of the combination of Alan Gilbert and the Philharmonic through video, audio, and photos.

Visit Alan Gilbert’s Official Website.

Learn more about Alan Gilbert



Liang Wang

Liang Wang joined the New York Philharmonic in September 2006 as Principal Oboe, The Alice Tully Chair. Previously, he was principal oboe of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (2005–06), Santa Fe Opera (2004–05), and San Francisco Ballet Orchestra; associate principal oboe of the San Francisco Symphony; and guest principal oboe of the Chicago and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras. He has performed as concerto soloist with the New York Philharmonic 23 times, including his debut performing Richard Strauss’s Oboe Concerto, led by Xian Zhang, in Hong Kong during the Orchestra’s 2008 tour of Asia. In addition, he has been heard as a featured player in works ranging from J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 to Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and Varèse’s Octandre.

Recipient of the 2014 Beijing International Music Festival Artist of the Year award, Mr. Wang serves as artist-in-residence of the Qing Dao Symphony Orchestra, his hometown orchestra, in the 2014–15 season, at the invitation of the mayor. He was invited by the Presidents of China and France to perform Chen Qigang’s Extase with the Orchestre Colonne de France at Versailles’s Royal Opera House in March 2014 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of France-China diplomacy.

Born in Qing Dao, China, in 1980, Liang Wang began oboe studies at the age of seven. In 1993 he enrolled at the Beijing Central Conservatory, and in 2003 he completed his bachelor’s degree at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied with Philadelphia Orchestra principal oboist Richard Woodhams. He is an alumnus of the Music Academy of the West, now a partner in the New York Philharmonic Global Academy.

Mr. Wang made his Carnegie Hall solo debut in April 2011 performing Chen Qigang’s Extase. Other recent appearances include Mozart’s Oboe Concerto with Les Violons du Roy (led by Bernard Labadie in Quebec City), China Philharmonic, and Shanghai and Guanzhou Symphony Orchestras; Richard Strauss’s Oboe Concerto with the Makau Symphony Orchestra and San Francisco Ballet Orchestra; Mozart and Strauss’s Oboe Concertos on tour with all of China’s major symphony orchestras; and J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 at The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. In December 2014 he performs Mozart’s Oboe Concerto with the New York String Orchestra, led by Jaimie Laredo, at Carnegie Hall Stern Auditorium.

An active chamber musician, he has appeared with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival for ten seasons, Angel Fire Music Festival, and La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest, with which he premiered Sean Shepherd’s Oboe Quartet. He has given master classes at the Cincinnati Conservatory, The Juilliard School, Mannes College of Music, Manhattan School of Music, The Curtis Institute of Music, Seoul University, New York University, and the Beijing, Shanghai, Hanoi, and Singapore conservatories. He is currently on the faculties of the Manhattan School of Music and New York University, and is an honorary professor at Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

Learn more about Liang Wang


Don Juan

RICHARD STRAUSS (1864 -1949)
Don Juan (1888)

The legend of the notorious lover, Don Juan, has been grist for literary and musical mills for centuries. But the brilliant score by the then-just-24-year-old Richard Strauss, already at the top of his game, shows us a Don who is different from most versions of him. Unlike Mozart’s more traditional image of the libertine in Don Giovanni, for example, Strauss’s depiction is based on an unfinished verse-play (written in 1844, published posthumously in 1851) by the dramatist/poet Nikolaus Lenau (1802-1850), in which the world-weary hero tires of his search for the ideal of womanhood. In the brief span of around 16 or 17 minutes of intense music, Strauss depicts Don Juan’s character in a flurry of upward-rushing notes—as if he were setting out on yet another quest. Exquisitely beautiful music shows him in two sensuous love scenes. And in eerily scored, shuddering gestures he allows himself to be killed in a duel—an unceremonious demise for the iconic Don. Strauss always demands extraordinary virtuosity from orchestras, and players love to perform his works. The composer wrote to his father (himself a horn player) about the challenges of this tone poem for the Weimar orchestra, which “huffed and puffed…One of the horn players sat there, out of breath, sweat pouring from his brow, asking ‘Good God, in what have we sinned that you should send us this scourge!’…I was really sorry for the wretched brass. They were quite blue in the face; the whole affair was so strenuous.” Think of that, as you listen to Don Juan’s brilliant signature horn calls.

Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks

Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks (1894–95)

Among Strauss’s ten tone poems, Till Eulenspiegel is probably the most entertaining and witty — even though this anti-hero meets his demise on the gallows. The title character is a colorful 14th century German folk hero, mischief-maker, and practical joker, the butt of whose pranks were the sanctimonious clergy and self-impressed members of academe. You’ll hear Till’s two “signature tunes,” one stated by the horns shortly after the introductory “Once Upon a Time” music, and another comical one played by the clarinet. Shortly we hear Till galloping through the marketplace and upsetting wares; disguised as a monk preaching a blasphemous sermon (the violas do the job); flirting with girls (the “love theme” is played by the violins); and mocking academics (depicted by the bassoons). When the scallywag has finally been caught, tried, and sentenced, says Strauss, “an ear-splitting roll on the side-drum signals that Till must answer for his ‘crimes.’ Trumpets and drums herald Till’s march to the scaffold, where his merry pranks are ended.” Trombones and tuba signify this bitter end. But don’t shed tears for our hero quite yet: Strauss gives us hope with a reprise of the “Once Upon a Time” music, hinting that Till’s spirit might still be around.


Oboe Concerto

CHRISTOPHER ROUSE (born in 1949 in Baltimore, Maryland)
Oboe Concerto (2004) (New York Premiere) 

Christopher Rouse has had an ongoing relationship with the New York Philharmonic for a number of years; in February 2009, the orchestra gave the world premiere of Odna Zhizn (A Life). This season, our principal oboist Liang Wang solos in the New York premiere of Rouse’s Oboe Concerto, commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra. The number of Rouse’s concertos is impressive—more than ten since 1985: violin, cello, flute, percussion, guitar, and clarinet, plus the Pulitzer Prize-winning Trombone Concerto and Seeing, for pianist Emanuel Ax (both commissioned by the New York Philharmonic). In Rouse’s program notes about the present work he comments, “I have noticed that [my concerti] seem to fall into one of two categories: ‘somber’ (e.g., trombone, violoncello) and ‘genial’ (guitar, clarinet). My oboe concerto…is of the latter variety. (I used to employ the term ‘recreational’ to refer to works of this type until I realized that it would be wrong to create the impression that composing them was a form of recreation. It isn’t; it’s hard work!)” Rouse also explains the nature of the musical material and its demands on the soloist: “There is no overt program to this piece. It aims, of course, to explore the capabilities of the oboe, of which the first in everyone’s mind is its capacity to play long, lyrical lines.” But he did not want “to deny the instrument’s more virtuosic attributes, and so there are plenty of moments when the soloist is asked to play music requiring substantial agility”; as a result, the concerto represents a kind of interplay between those lyrical and virtuosic qualities. A five-note chord in the strings at the beginning is the source for much of the melodic and harmonic material that metamorphoses, by turns, into dreamy, meditative, sensuous, lyrical, and colorful music.

Romeo and Juliet, Overture-Fantasy

Romeo and Juliet, Overture-Fantasy (1869; rev. 1870 and 1880)

Though Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky dipped into the Shakespeare canon several times for inspiration, it is his impassioned treatment of the tale of the star-crossed lovers that is the best-known of these. The music of this compact masterpiece follows the main strands of the tale, opening with a solemn chorale that introduces Friar Laurence and then weaves together the themes of the feuding Montagues and Capulets and the impassioned young lovers. Violent, ferocious crashes of conflict finally lead into the rapturous love theme. After repeated heartbeat-like timpani strikes that slowly die away, the passionate love theme returns (now harmonically turned upside down) only to be cut off — like the lives of Romeo and Juliet — by a dramatic cadence. Friar Laurence’s music returns, and all ends quietly, with harps and soaring strings and a final dramatic timpani roll, giving the listener an opportunity to contemplate the meaning of the tragedy.

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