On the cusp of a new season covering the New York Philharmonic, music critic Anthony Tommasini describes his excitement over the appointment of American conductor Alan Gilbert as music director: “Mr. Gilbert has the potential to bring back some Bernsteinian vitality while avoiding Boulezian agendas.”
I think all of our work could use a little more Bernsteinian vitality, but buttressed with the structures (and the occasional randomness) of Pierre Boulez, in whose temple at Bastille I have finally had occasion to offer prayers.
As for Alan Gilbert, 42, he is a fine conductor with a clear ictus and a soul big as a canyon gouged out by a meteor. And he has Bersteinian vitality in spades — Gilbert’s joie de vivre was immediately evident to me when I ran into him at the Aspen Music Festival one evening in 1999, alerted to his presence outside a downtown bar as he chortled uncontrollably. He was feeling expansive, in the throes of a Rabelasian moment with then-Cincinnati Symphony principal cello Anthony Kim. The two men were bonding hard, polishing off a few bottles of wine and goodness knows what else with a couple of hangers-on; their eyes were blazing with laughter and everything was flush. It was the fin de siecle in a boomtown. Private jets, ski lodges, and fingered octaves were no strangers here. Although I was bleary-eyed from the previous night shift at Texaco, sore from morning orchestra rehearsal with the coiled spring of James Conlon, and cameraless on account of having jettisoned most of the extras in order to live in a tent, I still remember it well.
As for the New York Philharmonic’s new season: Musical diplomacy with the Cubans, anyone?