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Alan Gilbert on Multimedia Concerts: 'This Is Our Identity'

Posted October 16, 2013

Alan Gilbert and Doug Fitch 

Music Director Alan Gilbert was recently featured in a Washington Post article by Anne Midgette on multimedia performances by orchestras. As Midgette notes, interdisciplinary performances through collaboration with other institutions and artists are one way in which Gilbert has brought a fresh approach to music-making. (Above, Gilbert works on one such project with director-designer Doug Fitch.) She writes:

In 2008, I reviewed a U-Md. concert called “The Petrushka Project.” [James] Ross and the director/puppeteer Doug Fitch, who are old friends, teamed up to create a performance of Stravinsky’s “Petrushka” that had the orchestra musicians wearing bits of costume, stomping their feet, drinking tea, and performing other stage business. It seemed a worthy one-off experiment.

Description: Description: http://articles.washingtonpost.com/images/pixel.gifBut lo and behold, the “Petrushka Project” has come to the New York Philharmonic. Paired with another Stravinsky work, it closed the orchestra’s 2012-13 season and was filmed for distribution in movie theaters this month under the title “A Dancer’s Dream.” Alan Gilbert, the Philharmonic’s music director, is planning to take it on tour.

“I couldn’t have imagined this five years ago, when I was asked to be the orchestra’s music director,” Gilbert said by phone last week.

In his four years at the Philharmonic to date, Gilbert has been an active champion of alternative forms of concert performance. In addition to its traditional diet of symphonies and concertos, the orchestra has offered semi-staged opera productions (directed by Fitch), theatrical presentations of contemporary music, and, yes, film-score accompaniment. “After four years,” Gilbert said, “it’s possible to say it’s not just an aberration. . . . This is our identity, not something we’re pasting on.”

Gilbert’s motivation is not to reach new audiences or find ways to make music more approachable. “I don’t buy that you need to juice up the concert experience with visuals to continue to be relevant,” he said. “I think sitting in a hall where music is being created live, in front of your face, is one of the most meaningful experiences you can have, still. That said . . . orchestras as institutions have to be more than just concert-producing mechanisms.” He added, “I am very interested in showing connections between what we do and what other cultural institutions and forces do.”