Monday, October 26, 2009

on Gilbert and Gustavo

This is a very exciting time for symphonic music in the United States. For the past decade, new offerings seemed to be coming only from the left coast, via Michael Tilson Thomas (San Francisco Symphony) and Esa-Pekka Salonen (Los Angeles Philharmonic).

Now, with Alan Gilbert taking the reins of the New York Philharmonic, and Gustavo Dudamel's start with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, we can once again look to both sides of the continent for excitement.

Nothing need be said here about Dudamel that hasn't already been said. I've met the man. I've seen him conduct (Stravinsky's Firebird, in San Francisco). He's the real deal.

And with this country's love of media hype and the next young thing, Gilbert seems to pale in comparison. Don't believe it. While the LA Times, Washington Post and even the Arizona Republic (!) have weighed in on the comparison between Gilbert and Dudamel (one is 'staid;' the other 'fiery'), I am more in line with Anthony Tommasini (NY TImes) and Alex Ross (The New Yorker), who are among the finest writers on music today. Both agree that the New York Philharmonic is finally on a path worthy of its name. Ross says the orchestra sounds better than it ever has in the last 17 years, that the orchestra sounds more 'mature' than it did under the direction of Gilbert's predecessors, Masur (in his 80s) and Maazel (almost 80)!

And later this season, Gilbert will embark on a bit of real daring, conducting an opera by Ligeti, Le grand macabre. I bet the subscribers will stay away. Wonder what will happen to all of those unused seats? Time will tell . . . .

Bravo, Alan.

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