The long months of speculation over who would succeed Loren Maazel as music director of the New York Philharmonic ended in July when the orchestra announced that Juilliard alumnus Alan Gilbert would be stepping into the position beginning in the 2009–10 season, the orchestra’s 168th. The 40-year-old Gilbert will be among the youngest music directors in the history of the Philharmonic, and the first native New Yorker in the position.
Concurrent with Gilbert’s appointment, the Philharmonic also announced that the Italian conductor Riccardo Muti will appear in multiple weeks (up to eight) of subscription concerts each season, and occasional international tours.
Gilbert, who earned a Master of Music in orchestral conducting from Juilliard in 1994, is the son of two New York Philharmonic violinists, who are also Juilliard alums: his mother, Yoko Takebe (Diploma ’64, violin), and father, Michael Gilbert (B.M.’64, violin), who retired from the orchestra in 2001.
Mr. Gilbert’s contract, which starts in 2009, will run for 5 years and calls for 12 weeks of concerts a season. He made his Philharmonic debut in 2001 and, since then, has led the orchestra 31 times. Last season he began an annual two-week stint as a guest conductor. Before that, he became chief conductor and artistic advisor of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra in 2000, was an assistant conductor for the Cleveland Orchestra, and has guest conducted many major orchestras around the country. Like his parents, Mr. Gilbert is also an accomplished violinist who subbed in the Philadelphia Orchestra when he was a student at the Curtis Institute. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard.
A native Upper West Sider, Gilbert grew up regularly attending Philharmonic rehearsals and concerts, and sometimes even accompanied his parents on tours. “Being appointed music director of the New York Philharmonic is much more than a dream come true—it is the realization of something I did not even dare to dream,” he said in a press release. “This is the orchestra I feel closest to in the world, these are the musicians for whom I have the highest regard in the world. To be given this vote of confidence is more than thrilling.”
Although he will be one of the youngest conductors at the helm of a major international orchestra, his abilities have well been put to test. In a March 2007 New York Times review, music critic Allan Kozinn wrote: “Alan Gilbert made a strong impression when he conducted the New York Philharmonic last month, and on Thursday evening he returned to Avery Fisher Hall to prove that it wasn’t a fluke. This time his program was decidedly more rugged: Gyorgy Ligeti’s otherworldly Violin Concerto was the centerpiece, and the Schumann Third Symphony was there to test his mettle in the Romantic canon. The results were correspondingly more striking, and taken together, the two programs said a lot about the breadth of this 40-year-old conductor’s tastes and the depth of his abilities.”