In an announcement that has taken many in the classical-music world by surprise, Alan Gilbert, who has led the New York Philharmonic as music director since 2009, will step down from the podium at the end of the 2016-17 season.
The orchestra made the announcement on Friday, adding that Gilbert's decision was prompted in part by the need for a "strong transition" for the planned renovation of Avery Fisher Hall, the group's home at Lincoln Center. The renovation is expected to begin in 2019 at the earliest.
Gilbert will have headed the New York Philharmonic for close to eight years by the time he leaves the position. His appointment was seen as an attempt by the venerated institution to put a relatively youthful face on the orchestra, which had previously been led by Lorin Maazel and Kurt Masur.
The orchestra said that Gilbert will continue to have a presence with the organization, including his role as co-curator of the NY Phil Biennial and guest conducting appearances.
In a prepared statement, the conductor said that "after eight years in such an all-consuming job, the time will be right to hand off the responsibility for taking the New York Philharmonic through its next great chapter leading to the reopening of the hall."
Gilbert, 47, was the first native New Yorker to be named music director at the orchestra. He is the son of Michael Gilbert, a former violinist with the New York Philharmonic, and Yoko Takebe, a violinist who is still with the orchestra.
During the Avery Fisher renovations, the orchestra is expected to perform at different venues throughout New York. The orchestra's leadership has already launched a major fundraising effort for the renovations, as well as its endowment.
Now the orchestra will have to also launch a search for a new music director. Gilbert's contract with the orchestra was set to expire at the end of the 2016-17 season. In September, he told the New York Times that he would be proud to lead the orchestra in its newly renovated concert hall.