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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The New York Philharmonic 2011-2012 Season Preview

Alan Gilbert is starting his third season at the helm of the New York Philharmonic.
Photo by Chris Lee, © 2010 The New York Philharmonic
The oldest professional orchestra in the United States (founded in 1842) returns for the 2011-2012 their, third under the baton of music director Alan Gilbert. Mr. Gilbert's leadership has seen the orchestra break new, exciting ground in the last two seasons. While the planned schedule lacks the operatic flair of Le Grand Macabre or this year's Hungarian Echoes festival, this should still be an exciting season at Avery Fisher Hall.

Here are, as well as we can determine it, the themes of the season:

Mahler Milestones
The Philharmonic continues celebrating the 150th birthday and 100th anniversary of the death of Gustav Mahler, the composer, symphonist and conductor. Mahler served as the Philharmonic's music director from 1909-1911, and the Philharmonic has been at the forefront of internatonal orchestras celebrating his work. Performances of the 1st, 2nd, 9th and 10th are scheduled for next year, with conductors including Mr. Gilbert, Daniel Harding and Jaap van Zweden.

The Return of the Three M's
Zubin Mehta, Kurt Masur, and Lorin Maazel, (who happen to be the three music directors who preceded Mr. Gilbert at the Philharmonic) are all conducting at Avery Fisher Hall next season. Mr. Mehta will conduct Bruckner's Eighth Symphony in January. Mr. Masur will lead a program featuring Shostakovich's "Babi Yar" symphony. And Mr. Maazel is offering Mozart and Debussy, one week, followed by the Strauss showpiece Ein Alpensinfonie the next. The latter piece required 150 musicians, including a full complement of horn players offstage.
Conductor David Zinman leads a program of Beethoven paired with modern music.
© DavidZinman.Org
The Modern Beethoven
David Zinman offers the start of a Beethoven cycle (well, six symphonies, anyway) in this three-week festival. Here's the catch: Each pair of Beethoven symphonies is programmed alongside 20th century music by Stravinsky, Samuel Barber, and Karl Amadeus Hartmann. Sadly, there's no Ninth planned for this year. Bernard Haitink makes an appearance leading the Sixth. And in June, Alan Gilbert offers Beethoven overtures in June, alongside works by Korngold and Carl Nielsen.

New Season, New Music
Alan Gilbert continues his initiative of offering New Yorkers the very best in contemporary music alongside traditional servings of Tchaikovsky, Brahms and Dvorak. This year, the Philharmonic offers the New York premieres of new music by John Corigliano and composer-in-residence Magnus Lindberg. The season ends with a "spatial" performance of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Gruppen, a difficult work which requires three separate orchestras, playing simultaneously in different parts of the hall.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats