Maestro quits in Alan Gilbert huff

Maestro quits in Alan Gilbert huff


norman lebrecht

December 09, 2017

Thomas Hengelbrock, music director of Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, says he’s leaving the job a year early in protest at the tremendous fuss made by the organisation over Alan Gilbert’s arrival.

‘It was extremely unpleasant of the NDR to announce my successor in a week when I had ten concerts to conduct,’ Hengelbrock complained to local media.

He will leave in summer 2018, instead of 2019.



  • Ungeheuer says:

    The good folks of Hamburg are making a fuss over Alan Gilbert? Good grief.

  • Rob says:

    Hengelbrock’s Mahler 1 is the finest recording of that work.

  • Andy says:

    Put on your big girl panties and deal with it, Tommy.

  • Lydia Wahlberg says:

    What is wrong with Alan Gilbert?

  • Michael says:

    What a big baby!

  • Dave says:

    Bye Bye!

  • Ken Thompson says:

    The New York Philharmonic lost a wonderful leader with the departure of Alan Gilbert. The orchestra never sounded better, morale was at a high, the repertory was varied and interesting. I already miss him.

    • Steve P says:

      Thank. GOD. Someone else feels that way. I get it: core rep was a work in progress, but the programming and orchestral sound were light years beyond anything the group had put out since Bernstein. Wanna hear apex orchestra? Listen to any of the Nielsen cycle – I doubt there has been better ensemble in NYC at any time in history.

      • MacroV says:

        I totally agree as well. Now, I’ve never been to New York to hear them, but I listened to the Philharmonic regularly on the radio. OK, if you want grandmaster interpretations of Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann and Mahler, he’s probably not your man. But he’s a leader, and made the Philharmonic more interesting and relevant than in the 40 years I’ve followed them.

      • Olassus says:

        Is that Nielsen cycle just technically good or are the interpretations worth a listen? I am thinking of buying it, having only the HvK 4 on the shelf.

    • Guest says:

      You have got to be jesting with that comment. Gilbert was the most superficial, boring, pedestrian, and soulless MD of the Philharmonic since Mehta. Whether you liked the man’s conducting or not, Maazel could get them to play. Everything Gilbert is working with was shaped by 5+ years of Maazel’s tutelage. Maazel had interpretations that were uniquely his own while Gilbert had interpretations that were…no different or better than 20 other conductors.

      • Steve P says:

        Maazel got a raucous sound out of NYPO and his self-indulgent interpretations are (were) often laughable. I still return to his Sibelius cycle with VPO, but otherwise he failed to make much of a mark IMHO.

        • Pedro says:

          Maazel conducted several exceptional performances with the NYPO, including a superb Elektra.

        • Guest says:

          You say Maazel’s “self-indulgent” interpretations were “laughable”. I would be curious if you say the same thing about Bernstien’s or Celibidache’s interpretations? If not, why not? They diverted from the score more than Maazel did at times.

          Sometimes I wonder how much of Maazel people have actually listened to because they all repeat the same cliches about him.

          • Novagerio says:

            Try Maazel’s recordings of Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges and L’Heure espagnole. His best recordings in my opinion, aswell as his Mahler 4 & 5 with Vienna and his supersonic Richard Strauss recordings with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra. Maazel could indeed be an exciting master of orchestral colour and those recordings show very little “self-indulgence”…

    • Save the MET says:

      Hogwash, boring, dull conductor with crappy stick technique. The worst they had since the end of Mehta’s turn there. Was unqualified for the job and purchased on the cheap when they decided they could not afford Muti’s price. Good riddance, don’t let the door hit him where the lord split him.

    • Nick says:

      Kem Thompson: Have you seen an ear doctor lately ? You are deaf! Alan Gilbert is the worst conductor EVER to lead NYP.

  • Arturo says:

    I don’t blame him. Very inconsiderate of orch. mgt. to do that.

  • Pedro says:

    It is difficult to find so many bad conductors in a single post. Hengelbrock, Gilbert, Nagano. Young is welcomed back in Hamburg.

  • MacroV says:

    It does seem a little thin-skinned, though the unwritten rule generally is you LOVE your MD, until he leaves. Then you’re allowed to love the next one. But watch that overlap.

  • Jasper says:

    To voice a contrary viewpoint, Alan Gilbert was a pedestrian, soulless, boring presence on the podium with the NY Phil. Even his biggest fanboy (at the NY Times) wrote that the orchestra played with little intensity during the latter part of Gilbert’s tenure.

    Furthermore, Gilbert seemed more enthused with an occasional foray into works like Le Grand Macabre than he was with the core classical canon.

    I am thrilled with his departure.


    • Nick says:

      @Jasper: Cannot agree more with you. After people like Bernstein, Masur, Zubin Mehta, Toscanini, Stokowski, Mengelberg, not to mention Gustav Mahler, Vassily Safonov, this little nobody GIlbert was like a little boy in front of a spaceship!!! He did not know what to do with them. He is lucky to have had his mommy or daddy playing in the orchestra. S/he obviously pulled all the strings s/he could for poor schnook Alan. And so, the inevitable happened. But, thank God he is out of NYPhil. Let him do the NDR in Hamburg and let the stupid Hamburgers be excited before its time, which is enormously rude and irresponsible on the part of the orchestra people and the management. Hengelbrock is 300% right quitting a year before his contract expires. When the orchestra exhibits total disrespect for a conductor the latter has the right to spit into the orchestra’s face! Bravo Hengelbrock!!!

  • Dr. Ed Sterns says:

    These conductors (both of them…All conductors in general) should be thanking their lucky stars they have work! Alan Gilbert got the conductors position because of his daddy being in the Orch! Think about this…he went from Santa Fe Opera to Conductor of the NY phil….fixed!! The egos of these stick wavers are worse than any vocal artist!!

    • MacroV says:

      Gilbert was director of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and had regular high-level US guest engagements for a decade before the Philharmonic hired him.

      You seriously think a section violinist could have influenced a major orchestra’s board to hire his son? Charming.

      • Guest says:

        The story line of having a hometown boy conducting the NYP is all it takes for these clueless marketing departments.

  • Dr. Ed Sterns says:

    Kent Nagano= Seiji Ozawa wannabe!!

  • Schmidtisserstedt says:

    Thats really a pity! What a wonderful musician who changed the orchestra completely artistically, socially – the right man at the right time. Now, like in any kindergarden they choose the opposite with Gilbert. Understandable reaction- the communication of this move was a poor media event by the NDR. By the way, Hengelbrocks concerts are sold out and he is very beloved in Hamburg!

    • May says:

      So are Nagano’s, which are equally boring. Everything in the Elbphilharmonie is sold out. It’s the hall, not the stick wavers.

  • ben LEGEBEKE says:

    I worked with Gilbert. He is nothing more than a mediocre conductor. Unbelievable that he got the NYPO. Maazel was one of the few great conductors and happily they took van Zweden as Gilberts successor….

    • Rookie says:

      Jaap van Zweden is comparable to L.Maazel ??
      Imho – and I had played with both – the distance between their level is enormous ,huge – such as if you compare between level of J.S.Bach’s fuge and the one can write an average beginner of composition class.

      • Guest says:

        I’m assuming that is mostly hyperbole. You’re making it seem like Maazel was some nobody who didn’t know anything about how to conduct. You make it seem like Zweden is the next Bohm, Klemperer, or Tennstedt. From the concerts I have heard, not even close.

  • barry guerrero says:

    Hengelbrock vs. Ivan Fischer in Mahler 1? . . . Really? Are you aware that Hengelbrock recorded the 1893 first version (“Titan”)? . . . it’s pretty much a case of apples and oranges.

  • Saxon Broken says:

    Does Hengelbrock have another position lined up?

  • Nemesis says:

    To paraphrase a well-known quote: in the land of the deaf, any fool can conduct the orchestra. To take this a step further, where the land of the deaf reacts only to hyperbole, it will likely be the fool with the most effective PR machine.

    This is all just stupid games with pointless puppets: Gilbert is not much of a conductor – and it was indeed a mystery that he got the NYP position – but he is dull rather than rough and so quite possibly not as musically destructive as Jaap van Zweden. I never heard Hengelbrock but, on the basis of what I have heard from Gilbert, it seems highly credible that Gilbert is a similarly backward step in Hamburg – in which case Hengelbrock has every right to take offence.