Alan Gilbert, new guy on the N.Y. podium

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Life, even for rising orchestra conductors, can be unfair. Consider one response to Alan Gilbert, the new music director of the New York Philharmonic, after he leads Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony in a packed college auditorium in Queens to loud applause. In the intermission crowd, Linda Bergelson looks up and says: “We live half the year in San Diego, and Alan Gilbert just doesn’t have that Dudamel spark.”

Bergelson also admits that she’s just getting to know Gilbert. That’s also true for many New Yorkers, as well as others around the classical music world many of who m are barely acquainted with this quiet-mannered 42-year-old conductor who is the first native New Yorker to lead the Philharmonic. He isn’t the subject of the kind of volcanic media eruption that the 28-year-old Dudamel’s rags-to-raves story has created since the Los Angeles Philharmonic named him its next music director, but Gilbert’s welcoming, boyish face smiles from bright red promotional ads on the sides of New York buses. The orchestra’s new logo — a circle with a baton-symbolizing line across the middle — repeats across the top of the ads. It stands for the central role that Philharmonic officials hope this young conductor will have in revitalizing the 167-year-old orchestra. He’s the first Asian American to lead the ensemble, the son of two New York Philharmonic musicians.

When Gilbert is asked about the counterpoint between New York and L.A. arrivals — he’ll make his debut as music director at Avery Fisher Hall on Sept. 16, three weeks before Dudamel’s in Disney Hall — he keeps cool.

“If you read some of the articles that have been written since Gustavo — Gustavo is a friend of mine — and I have been appointed, you’d think there’d never been any young conductors before,” says Gilbert, whose new job was held recently by two much older men, Kurt Masur and Lorin Maazel.


For a profile of Gilbert, read the full report in Sunday Arts & Books by Allan M. Jalon.