Performance Wednesday, May 2, 2012 | 8 PM

New York Philharmonic

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
With imperious march music, moments of pastoral repose (complete with cowbells), and heaven-storming passages overflowing with joy, Mahler’s Sixth is a tumultuous whirlwind of musical extremes. Alan Gilbert leads the New York Philharmonic in the work that he has called his favorite Mahler symphony, a “powerful expression of life’s experiences.”


  • New York Philharmonic
    Alan Gilbert, Music Director and Conductor


  • MAHLER Symphony No. 6



    New York Philharmonic

    Founded in 1842, the New York Philharmonic is the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States and one of the oldest in the world; on May 5, 2010, it performed its 15,000th concert. Music Director Alan Gilbert, The Yoko Nagae Ceschina Chair, began his tenure in September 2009, succeeding a distinguished line of 20th-century musical giants that goes back to Gustav Mahler and Arturo Toscanini. The orchestra has always played a leading role in American musical life, commissioning and/or premiering works by each era's leading composers, some of whom have won the Pulitzer Prize. Renowned around the globe, the Philharmonic has appeared in 430 cities in 63 countries-including the February 2008 historic visit to Pyongyang, DPRK, for which the Philharmonic earned the 2008 Common Ground Award for Cultural Diplomacy.

    The Philharmonic, which appears annually on Live From Lincoln Center on PBS, is the only American orchestra to have a 52-week-per-year nationally and internationally syndicated radio series-The New York Philharmonic This Week-which is also streamed on The orchestra has made nearly 2,000 recordings since 1917, with more than 500 currently available, and including several Grammy Award winners. Since June 2009, more than 50 concerts have been released as downloads, available at all major online music stores, and the Philharmonic's self-produced recordings continue in the 2011-2012 season. Famous for the long-running Young People's Concerts, the Philharmonic has developed a wide range of education programs, among them the School Partnership Program that enriches music education in New York City, and Learning Overtures, which fosters international exchange among educators.

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    Alan Gilbert

    New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert, The Yoko Nagae Ceschina Chair, began his tenure in September 2009. The first native New Yorker to hold the post, he has sought to make the orchestra a point of civic pride for the city as well as for the country.

    Mr. Gilbert's creative approach to programming combines works in fresh and innovative ways. He has also forged artistic partnerships, introducing the positions of The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence and The Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence, an annual three-week festival, and CONTACT!, a new-music series. In 2011-2012, he conducts world premieres and three Mahler symphonies, takes up a residency at London's Barbican Centre, and tours to Europe and California, with a season-concluding musical exploration of space at the Park Avenue Armory that features Stockhausen's theatrical immersion Gruppen. In October 2011, he made his Philharmonic debut as soloist when he joined Frank Peter Zimmermann in J. S. Bach's Concerto for Two Violins. Last season's highlights included two tours of European music capitals, Carnegie Hall's 120th Anniversary Gala, and an acclaimed concert performance of Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen, building on 2010's wildly successful staging of Ligeti's Le grand macabre.

    In September 2011, Mr. Gilbert became director of conducting and orchestral studies at The Juilliard School, where he is also the first to hold the William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies. He also serves as conductor laureate of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and principal guest conductor of Hamburg's NDR Symphony Orchestra, and conducts leading orchestras nationally and internationally that include the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the Berliner Philharmoniker.

    Alan Gilbert made his acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut in 2008, leading John Adams's Doctor Atomic; the DVD and Blu-ray of this production received a 2011 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. Earlier releases garnered Grammy Award nominations and top honors from the Chicago Tribune and Gramophone magazine. Mr. Gilbert studied at Harvard University, the Curtis Institute of Music, and Juilliard, and was assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra (1995-1997). In May 2010, he received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the Curtis Institute, and in December 2011, he received Columbia University's Ditson Conductor's Award for his "exceptional commitment to the performance of works by American composers and to contemporary music."

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Mahler Symphony No. 6, "Tragic" (Allegro)
New York Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, Conductor

At a Glance

With its complex structure, wildly shifting mood, and dark ending, Mahler's Sixth Symphony is widely considered the most forbidding and "modern" of the composer's nine. Just as he poured his most raucously jubilant feelings into the Fifth, the composer told a friend that the Sixth expressed "the cruelties I've suffered and the pains I've felt." Like his other symphonies, this work was considered exotic, chaotic, or simply unplayable from his own time in the late 19th and early 20th century until the 1960s. But Mahler was a kindred spirit who uncannily anticipated the volatile eclecticism of the current day, and the relative frequency of recent performances of his Sixth Symphony suggests that it speaks eloquently to the traumatic volatility of our era.

Still much of its material-the riveting march that opens the work, the brutal hammer blow that closes it, the bucolic slow movement complete with cowbells-is surprisingly basic and instantly memorable. What disconcerts is Mahler's seeming determination to deconstruct, even smash, what he painstakingly creates. Nowhere in Mahler's work do we feel more viscerally the tension between the longing for a vanishing Romantic universe and the need to break free-violently, if necessary.
Program Notes
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Sponsored by DeWitt Stern Group, Inc.
The Trustees of Carnegie Hall gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Fried in support of the 2011-2012 season.

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