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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Festival Preview: Gilbert's Playlist

The New York Philharmonic goes inside the mind of its Music Director.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
What is on Alan Gilbert's playlist?
Original photo by Chris Lee © 2013 The New York Philharmonic.
Photo alteration by the author.
The June schedule of the New York Philharmonic is the last major event of the 2013 spring concert season in New York. This year, for its final run of concerts, the orchestra is building its programming around a new concept: the personal listening habits of music director Alan Gilbert.


Gilbert's Playlist, as the concert series has been dubbed, opens May 30, four days after the Philharmonic's free Memorial Day concert at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. (This year's concert is a reprise of Anton Bruckner's Third Symphony.) The far-reaching festival encompasses opera, ballet, jazz and even puppetry, offering an inside look at the wide-ranging tastes of Mr. Gilbert.

The first concert weekend (May 30-June 1) explores jazz with a reprise of Jazz at Lincoln Center director Wynton Marsalis' Swing Symphony. It is the trumpeter's third symphonic effort. This work, (which had its world premiere with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic in 2010) opened the New York Philharmonic's season in 2010. Here, the symphony is programmed alongside Aaron Copland's Clarinet Concerto and shorter works by Stravinsky and Shostakovich.

The focus then shifts to opera, with the first Philharmonic concert performances of Luigi  Dallapiccola's harrowing Il Prigioniero ("The Prisoner.") This is not a tale of a mysterious English village, rather it is a Dostoyevskian nightmare that is set during the Spanish Inquisition. It will be paired with Serge Prokofiev's first Violin Concerto, with soloist Lisa Biatashvili. (June 6, 8, 11)

After a week away from the podium (for performances of Stravinsky's Firebird Suite and Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto) the Playlist resumes June 20-22. These concerts feature Mr. Gilbert's arrangement of The Ring Without Words, a series of bite-sized orchestral fragments from Wagner's massive operas, played as a one-hour suite. The concerts open with Haydn's Piano Concerto No. 11 (with New York Philharmonic artist-in-residence Emanuel Ax) and the New York premiere of Symphony No. 3. by Philharmonic composer-in-residence Christopher Rouse.

The final week of Gilbert's Playlist is the most anticipated: a return to collaboration with the Brooklyn-based puppeteer Doug Fitch, whose work was last seen in Philharmonic stagings of the operas Le Grande Macabre and The Cunning Little Vixen. This time, the artist's focus is on ballet: specifically Igor Stravinsky's The Fairy's Kiss and Petrushka. This program will be presented June 27, 28 and 29.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.