Surprise announcement catches patrons and fans off guard

The New York Philharmonic has announced that music director Alan Gilbert will leave his position in 2017. The conductor and violinist will have served eight seasons by the end of his tenure.

When the 48-year-old Gilbert debuted with the orchestra in September 2009, he became the first native New Yorker to hold the coveted position.

He seemed destined to lead the New York Phil: his violinist father, Michael Gilbert, played with the orchestra until he retired in 2001, and his violinist mother, Yoko Takebe, still plays with philharmonic ensembles. The New York Times has noted Gilbert’s innovations, including his collaborative work with designer Doug Fitch, support of new music, and founding of the NY Phil Biennial festival, on which he’ll continue to work after his departure.

During a 2012 West Coast tour, Gilbert garnered rave reviews. After a May 9, 2015 concert at Disney Hall, the LA Times concluded: “Gilbert has the reputation of being a thoughtful, capable, cautious conductor, not a firebrand. He is clearly out to change that.” Indeed, the previous week, at a concert at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, Gilbert proved himself to be a master of dynamics as he encouraged the players to dig deep, delivering a profound level of emotion during a flawless, inspired performance.

“He showed power, precision, and presence,” Strings noted, “affirming why he is qualified to stand in the shoes of Gustav Mahler, Arturo Toscanini, Bruno Walter, Pierre Boulez, Zubin Mehta, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel, and the other past music directors.” Gilbert says he based his decision on the timing of the New York Phil’s new concert hall in Lincoln Center that begins construction in 2019. “It’s become clear that the next chapter, logically, has to carry the organization through to the opening of the hall, which is at the earliest 2021. It’s a wonderful atmosphere, which of course I will be sorry to leave. But as I’ve thought about it, the next logical step—it’s just longer than I want to stay around. It’s actually that simple.”

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