Announcement imminent on Alan Gilbert’s next job

Announcement imminent on Alan Gilbert’s next job


norman lebrecht

June 20, 2017

The ex-chief of the New York Philharmonic is in line, we hear, to succeed Thomas Hengelbrock at the NDR Elbphilharmonie, where he used to be principal guest conductor.

Hengelbrock announced this week that he’s standing down in 2019. A successor will be announced in Hamburg on Friday.

Alan Gilbert’s name is in the frame, but it’s not fixed.

There is local opposition to an American maestro in a German trophy hall. It could go either way.

Watch this space.


  • Meal says:

    “There is local opposition to an American maestro in a German trophy hall.” I don’t think that there is a local oppostion to an American maestro. Although the Hamburger Abendblatt mentioned that Alan Gilbert performance of Mahler 4 with the NY Phil was not the best one I do not read fundamental concerns against Gilbert. And even if so you cannot conclude that concerns against Gilbert would speak for concerns against any American conductor. On this blog Gilbert has quite often criticized. Whether or not this critique is justified I would not conclude that the readers here have any general concerns against american conductors. The Hamburg based TV station NDR appreciated the concert mentioned earlier quite much, by the way.

    • erich says:

      That would then mean two greatly overrated American conductors in Hamburg…Gilbert and Nagano…oy…

    • John Borstlap says:

      But it would be quite appropriate to appoint a ‘brilliant modern American conductor’ at the Alp Phil, because the building desperately screams for progressive utopia. And GIlbert has tried to interest New Yorkers into contemporary and utopian music, NB inhabitants of the archetypal city of utopian progressiveness. Also, an American is not burdened by a musical tradition that many Germans still believe was at the heart of the Brown Evil – erupting in one of the most sophisticated and cultured nations of Europe. So, for the Hamburgers Gilbert would symbolize progressiveness on the morally right side of history and define musical Hamburg as part of Western modernity, instead of on the reactionary wave length of all those dead white males from undemocratic times that unfortunately were German on top of it. In the hands of a truly modern non-German conductor, even Beethoven would get a chance to sound un-Germanic.

      • Meal says:

        I did not argue for or against Gilbert. But if we start sharing arguments and considerations I completely agree to your thoughts. In addition: polititians will like the idea that Hamburg attracted an international known conductor, someone who conducted one of the best orchestras in the world (NY Phil) and is in the tradition of Bernstein. Whether or not he is as qualified has Bernstein was is less important then.

  • Mathematician says:

    The Elbphilharmonie is a enormous, disgraceful waste of taxpayers money at its final price after the cost overruns, scandals and bureaucratic incompetence:

    Cost estimates.
    2003: “nothing, will pay for itself by the sale of luxury flats”
    2005: 186 million euros
    2007: 241 million Euros
    2010: 400 million euros
    2017. 789 million euros

    This is in a dimension that can compete in percentage terms with the Sydney opera house cost blowout, and is grist to the mill of those who proclaim that classical music is for the elites and paid for by the masses. Although I like classical music, in this case I have to agree.

    • Luigi says:

      Please spare us with your Anglo Saxon penny pinching view on culture and your PC correct BS about elites.
      The Elbphilharmonie is a huge success, many concerts are already sold out for the next season and they are at the moment considering public viewing for some events due to the huge demand and the great interest so far from the public.
      And just as you mentioned the Sydney opera house: that building has been proven beyond reasonable doubt to be an invaluable marketing tool for Sydney and Australia.

      And just for the record: Germany spends money on culture as it sees fit, it doesn’t need to be lectured in that particular department, Thank You.

      • Hugh Jaarsz says:

        LOL Your arguments have more holes than Swiss cheese. How many pieces of paper with “30 EUR stalls” or whatever printed on them do you have to sell to recoup 789 mil? You can’t be anyone who has actually run a business. Government employee perhaps?

      • Beaumont says:

        …and there we have it – your argument is brilliant: Sydney Opera House is famous for its exterior- not for anything going on inside. The Elbphilharmonie is sold out because people want to see the building – they don’t care what’s on (its Intendant actually said as much when he stated that he could put on concerts with people blowing on combs and he would still sell out). All this is called the Bilbao Effect – named after the oh-so-brilliant museum which people fly in to see from the o u t s i d e.
        So that’s where culture is going: hyper-expensive buildings critics can salivate over, the chi-chi brigade can discuss over their lattes, and Joe Average has to pay through the nose for (especially in Germany, because everything else would be a throwback to the Nazis).
        The whole thing is actually pathetic.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Agreed….. Such concert halls make programming very easy: anything goes. Untill interest fades, because the newness wears-off, and then the upkeep begins to bite. There can be drawn-up a whole list of things which obviously are wrong with the building, but it is not worth the trouble – and is has already been done here on SD. (We should not forget the fate of the lady who opened a wrong door on her way to the bath room and fell 67 meters right down into the water.)

    • Peter says:

      Your numbers are for the whole building. The big concert hall is only one of many rooms in there. there is a big hotel. a chamber music hall. offices. apartments. rehearsal spaces.
      So basically you are comparing an apple with a fruit basket.

  • Anon. says:

    So it might not be Alan Gilbert at all then? Hope this post isn’t to let you get a sneak peak at the press release 😉

  • Anonymous says:

    Is he really standing down? That’s only the official version…

  • Peter Pan says:

    Oh dear… the usual Mickey Mouse approach to culture.
    According to your logic the Sydney opera house was a failure as it did not recoup its cost through ticket sales ? What about the “value” as an internationally recognised icon ?

    Countries like Germany treat culture as a necessity, not a luxury, hence the expense.
    But that is too far from your world I guess…

  • ben LEGEBEKE says:

    Gilbert is a rather mediocre conductor, with no sign of a real maestro. His tenure with the NYPO wasn’t very memorable. Heard them in Antwerp with the Fantastique and it was a very common performance. Nothing to compare with the worlds greatest orchestras. Hopefully Jaap v.Zweden will bring the orchestra back to its old stature….

    • John Borstlap says:

      There is the opinion of many concert goers in NY who conclude that G’s relative lack of musical enthusiasm for the older repertoire is the cause of his advocacy of 20C music, since that repertoire requires quite different talents. Much of the modern repertoire focusses on sound, colour, surprise, which are qualities on the surface, while a majority of the ‘old’ repertoire needs performers of psychological depth and authentic character, in short: ‘bigger’ personalities, to bring the scores to life. Any musically-astute conductor, even if very young, can conduct a Beethoven or Schubert or, even, a Mahler piece nowadays, but to make such music a really thrilling experience, a whole world of emotional maturity has to be conjured-up. Personalities who can do that, have become rare, due to the superficiality of modern life. A process that has been going-on for at least half a century and which can also be felt in the solo field.

      • Sue says:

        Wonderful comments; totally agree. And your observation about “a whole world of emotional maturity needs to be conjured up” just so reminded me of Kleiber. I do wonder, too, whether our canon of great western art music (it bothers me not one iota that they’re dead) can survive in our awful era of fleeting attention spans with their punctuated forms of social interaction, arid political correctness and festering identity politics. Somebody is certain to find something wrong with any composer on any one of those criteria.

      • Talking the Talk says:

        Yes have to agree whole heartedly with your comments. ‘Personalities who can do that” are now rarely given the opportunity to develop as they are seen as too demanding and their creatively too uncomfortable in an industry that is sadly now more and more just that, an industry. It values quick results, high energy and survives of the superficial charisma of it’s current ‘stars’. A flurry of youthful exuberance is mistaken for talent but usually is no more than that and if they can juggle so much the better.

        What is particularly entertaining -for all the wrong reasons- is the growing art of the ‘air conductor’, if you can wave your arms around in time to the orchestra, practice a few appropriate facial gestures and are also attractive then great! – you’ve got the job.

        It also helps tremendously if you have little personal integrity or artistic conviction and are more than grateful for the opportunity you’ve been given, the result of this equation being you are more than amenable to the suggestions/requests of the agents/ orchestra managers who put their faith in you and everyone is happy.

        Yeats wrote a very good poem about it.

  • Freddy says:

    It seems an appointment to a youth orchestra would have been more appropriate for him. Ok maybe not a US based one – perhaps an English or even one of the very accomplished “jugendorchesters”……

  • Bruce says:

    So. All these comments about Gilbert raise the question: who <i<should they hire?

    • Bruce says:

      ^ oops, meant to make that should, in italics.

    • Meal says:

      As an alternative: Pappano is getting free … He could also do some guest conducting at the Hamburg opera. If I had to bet I would bet on Gilbert. John Brostlap and me gave some good arguments why Gilbert could be a good choice for Hamburg – although these arguments have little to do with musicality (which hardly can be judged by most politicians). We will see on Friday. Anyone who wants to bet? 😉

      • Bruce says:

        Not interested in betting; I was just wondering if anyone had anything positive to say about any conductor… 😛

        • Max Grimm says:

          This is SlippedDisc, where a good amount of luck is required to find someone who has something positive to say about anyone or anything. 😉

  • GR says:

    It will be Gilbert for sure,the orchestra likes him (the audience as well)…and there is no other guy in line…
    Urbanski is the current guest conductor,and he is good…
    But too young (especially) for this orchestra.
    Gilbert had made very good concerts the last decade in Hamburg, it will be good choice for the orchestra and him!