Gilbert takes over N.Y. Phil

Times Staff Writer

HOT on the heels of April’s appointment of 26-year-old Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel to succeed Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen in 2009, the venerable New York Philharmonic Orchestra announced Wednesday that it has also chosen a new young leader: 40-year-old Alan Gilbert.

Gilbert has served as chief conductor of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra since 2000 and from 2003 to 2006 was the first music director of Santa Fe Opera.

Concurrent with the announcement that Gilbert will succeed Lorin Maazel as music director, the New York Philharmonic also said that Italian conductor Riccardo Muti will expand his commitment to the orchestra, appearing in multiple weeks of subscription concerts and on occasional tours.

Although not quite as youthful as Dudamel, Gilbert, the son of two New York Philharmonic violinists, will be one of the orchestra’s youngest leaders to date -- and on Wednesday morning, members of the classical music world hailed his appointment as further evidence that American orchestras are feeling the need for young blood.


“It may be a sign of a sea change, which I think is good,” said Richard Gaddes, general director of Santa Fe Opera.

Gaddes called Gilbert “a very obvious choice” for the New York Philharmonic and said he hoped the conductor would continue to appear with the opera as a guest conductor.

“When he came to us in 2003, his career was certainly on the ascent, but he became a major international conductor,” Gaddes said.

Los Angeles Philharmonic President Deborah Borda also believes that younger conductors are the wave of the future. Borda noted that in the United States, many ensembles, including the Chicago Symphony, the Detroit Symphony and Washington, D.C.'s National Symphony, are in the midst of music director searches.


“I think the day of the ancient European maestro who parks himself on the podium for 25 years is happily a thing of the past,” Borda said Wednesday. “I mean, Esa-Pekka has the longest tenure of anybody around, and I think even he felt like it was long enough.”

Salonen, 49, was 34 when he became the L.A. Philharmonic music director in 1992.

Said Craig Smith, music critic for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper: "[Gilbert’s] work here in Santa Fe was not only top quality professionally but it had a kind of curiosity and excitement that only someone with a sense of drama could have.

“He is committed to the art form but not rigid in the way you think of some of the old masters, who throw batons and scream.


“As hackneyed as it sounds, he is a normal person, a normal guy who happens to have a really amazing skill.”