Alan Gilbert goes out in a blaze of … New World Symphony

Alan Gilbert goes out in a blaze of … New World Symphony


norman lebrecht

February 03, 2016

The New York Philharmonic has announced the farewell season of its departing music director. 

Sets pulses racing?

OPENING GALA CONCERT: New York Philharmonic Premieres Past and Present THE NEW WORLD INITIATIVE: Season-Long, Citywide Immersion in DVOŘÁK’S NEW WORLD SYMPHONY



ALAN GILBERT’S FAREWELL SEASON HIGHLIGHTS SEVEN PREMIERES, FINAL EUROPE TOUR, WAGNER’s Das Rheingold, MAHLER’s Fourth Symphony, BEETHOVEN’s Ninth Symphony with SCHOENBERG’s A Survivor from Warsaw, JOHN ADAMS’s 70th Birthday, LIGETI’s Mysteries of the Macabre, HANDEL’s Messiah, and More SEASON FINALE: A Program Exploring How Music Can Effect Positive Change and Harmony in the World

alan gilbert

Full press release here.


  • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    This looks more interesting than most announcements for the 16-17 season. Wasn’t the New World Symphony actually composed in NYC or am I thinking of Miami? Congrats to AG for his NYPhil tenure.

    • Doug says:

      LOL! The New World Symphony was actually composed on Venice Beach while Dvorak was rollerblading and flexing his biceps. Good thing he was noticed by the studio execs or we would have never heard his music.

      • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

        Of course. But Venice Beach is in California and I don’t think he got any further west than Iowa where he was last seen in a caucus.

    • Paul Wright says:

      According to the Dvorak website, the composer began work on the symphony in New York on 10 January 1893. At the end of March, concerned that he would not finish it before his planned return to Bohemia for the summer in May, he and his wife decided to abandon this plan, have their children join them instead in the US, and spend the summer in Spillville, Iowa, the hometown of his unofficial assistant, the violinist Josef Kavarik. In the event, he finished the work in New York on 24 May, before the children had arrived from Europe, the family set off for Spillville on 3 June, and on arrival there Dvorak gave the completed manuscript to Kavarik. So the work seems indeed to have been wholly composed in New York.

    • KL says:

      Robert, this is the New World Symphony in Miami you might be thinking of.

      • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

        OMG, yes. Thanks for the clarification. I’m old and get confused easily. Both Doug and I were trying to be clever and amusing. So sorry to have missed the mark.

  • FreddyNYC says:

    Any word on his future plans? Personally I think he would make a fine conductor for some of our more accomplished (US) youth orchestras……

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      AG is already on the Juilliard faculty and head of orchestral performance and the conducting program. Let’s follow that angle and see where it leads…

  • Larry W says:

    There are many exciting and innovative aspects of the Philharmonic’s announcement. The focal point is a “citywide immersion in Dvorak’s New World Symphony.” They will “explore the famous Largo theme, commonly known as ‘Goin’ Home,’ to initiate conversations about the theme of ‘home’ through performances.” The NWS was composed while Dvorak was the first director of the National Conservatory of Music, now the Juilliard School. It was then located at W. 122nd St., a couple of blocks from Harlem, where the Manhattan School of Music is now. Dvorak said a new school of music could be founded on the music of “American Negros.” A recurrent Hal-le-lu-jah figure in the first movement reflects this aspect (along with Native American motives). I hope the NYP does not miss the opportunity to recognize and initiate conversations about these ethnic contributions to one of the most popular of symphonies. These origins are largely overlooked.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      Agreed concerning NYPhil season, but the NCM was NOT the ancestor of Juilliard where MSM is now located. NCM under Dvorak was at 47 W. 25th Street (according to my exhaustive Wiki-research). Juilliard sprang from the Institute of Musical Art founded in 1905.

      • Larry W says:

        I stand corrected, but find no way of editing that here. My literary source for this information (not Wikipedia) is apparently flawed. Thank you. Dvorak may still have visited Harlem. In any case, his student Harry T. Burleigh did introduce him to American spirituals.

        • Daniel F. says:

          A very minor detail: the actual address of the old Juilliard (now Manhattan) was Claremont Ave. The school took up the short block between Claremont and Broadway on 122nd St.

          • Larry W says:

            Thanks, Daniel. I thought saying 122nd St. would show its proximity to Harlem at 125th St. (I attended Juilliard its last year at that location, then we moved to Lincoln Center.)

    • Susan Chumsky says:

      The National Conservatory of Music was in two townhouses at 126-128 East 17th Street, now the site of Washington Irving High School. Dvorak lived two blocks east, at 327 East 17th Street, while he taught at the conservatory and wrote New World, his Cello Concerto, and other works.

  • Daniel F. says:

    Alan Gilbert has done the NY Philharmonic WAY more good than harm, and why the blog-keeper chooses to denigrate him in this characteristically snarky (content-less) way is beyond my understanding.

  • Scott F says:

    And, don’t forget the exciting Tchaikovsky festival. Orchestras don’t do enough Tchaikovsky.

    • Petros LInardos says:

      Indeed, orchestras don’t play enough of Tchaikovsky beyond the staples. Certainly not his 2nd piano concerto, or the original version of the 1st in a new Urtext edition.

    • Bruce says:

      Great idea for a radio station: All Manfred, All The Time.

  • cherrera says:

    This is so pathetic, a theme that only a well-meaning liberal white Upper West Side NY Philharmonic subscriber could love.

    Westside Story? negro spirituals in Dvorak’s 9th? Who yearns for the days of dancing Latinos and singing Negros? (Yes, I keep using the word “negro” very very ironically here) For whom were these works ever a cultural reference?

    Wynton Marsalis? What black demographics listen to him? Bill Cosby, and his generation.

    Gilbert may bring the new to classical music, but his conception is still stubbornly elitist white high-brow culture. Which is fine, if it weren’t a dying demographic in a dying art form.

    There’s more to NY than the Upper West Side.

    • Daniel F. says:

      People have been predicting its death for a very long time. Many of them, like you, apparently cheering what they take to be the last gasps of air. The hot news, however, is that…IT’S STILL HERE!

    • Larry W says:

      What is so pathetic? The glaring mistakes in these comments. First (dancing Latinos), West Side Story, a modern take on Romeo and Juliet, has two warring gangs– one Puerto Rican and one white. Second (singing Negros), the 2nd movement theme in the New World Symphony is not from an actual Negro spiritual, but evocative of that stylistic origin. The words were added 30 years later, and not by Dvorak. Third (black demographics), Wynton Marsalis is revered by countless lovers of jazz and classical music, white and black. Fourth, the demographic for classical music is not elitist, white, and high-brow. Such a statement could only be made from profound ignorance. Fifth, neither is classical music a dying art form. The writer should get out more and actually attend a few concerts. Or, go to any Star Wars movie, the music of which is constructed like a Wagner opera. Sixth (cultural reference), if Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic choose to program music that speaks to a wider demographic than liberal white Upper West Side subscribers, they are to be congratulated.

  • cherrera says:

    The season will include a three-week Tchaikovsky festival conducted by Semyon Bychkov.

    I wonder why they didn’t pick Bychkov as their new music director. Jaap van Zweden never got to do a three-week series at the NYP. I think it’s because of JvZ’s proven fund raising record at Dallas. If you can schmooze with Texans you can schmooze with New Yorkers.