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Review: A Safe Start to Alan Gilbert’s Final Season With the Philharmonic

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Alan Gilbert began his tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic in September 2009 by turning the traditional season-opening gala concert into a strong statement of artistic purpose. Conductors at orchestras everywhere are under institutional pressure to make these gala programs, which also function as fund-raisers for patrons, light and festive. Mr. Gilbert’s inaugural challenged this notion.

He began with something festive in mood, but musically feisty: the premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s “EXPO,” a spiky 10-minute score. Then Renée Fleming was the soloist in an early Messiaen work, “Poèmes Pour Mi,” a rapturous 30-minute cycle of love songs. The evening ended with Mr. Gilbert conducting a blazing account of Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique.”

On Wednesday night at David Geffen Hall, however, Mr. Gilbert, who will step down as the Philharmonic’s music director in the spring, began his valedictory season with a gala program that was less ambitious and certainly not challenging. Still, the performances were excellent.

To start, he led the New York premiere of John Corigliano’s “STOMP,” a breathless, colorful seven-minute piece. The composer adapted this score in 2014 from a solo violin work he wrote as a piece for the Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia. In this bright, fidgety orchestral version the music hovers somewhere between a perpetual-motion toccata and country-fiddle hoedown, though a pensive middle section alters the mood for a while. True to its title, the orchestra players sometimes had to buttress rhythms in the music by stomping their feet.

Then the acclaimed jazz pianist and composer Aaron Diehl played an animated and uncommonly sensitive account of Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F. The New York Symphony Society, which merged with the Philharmonic in 1928, gave the premiere of this concerto in 1925 with Gershwin at the piano, so, officially the orchestra can claim premiership.


Read the full piece from: New York Times

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