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Next philharmonic director ‘plucked’ from family

Next philharmonic director ‘plucked’ from family
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First Published: Wed, Jul 18 2007. 10 58 AM IST
Updated: Wed, Jul 18 2007. 10 58 AM IST
New York: The New York Philharmonic dipped into its family tree and plucked Alan Gilbert, the 40-year-old son of two Philharmonic musicians, as its next music director, making him the first native New Yorker in the position and a rare American in the job.
Philharmonic officials also said they would appoint an elder statesman, Riccardo Muti, 65, to serve in a supporting role equivalent to principal guest conductor.
The decisions, to be formally announced at a news conference on ednesday, ended several years of speculation about who would succeed Lorin Maazel, who has two seasons left on his contract.
Gilbert, who started an annual two-week stint as guest conductor last season, had long been a likely candidate. Orchestra officials said he appeared to be a front-runner at least a year ago, and that the decision crystallized in the spring.
"Every time he's come here, it's been better than the prior time," Zarin Mehta, the orchestra's president, said. "We've watched him grow. He's a good musician and is approaching the prime of his career. He is also young and a New Yorker, and he has family in the orchestra."
Gilbert's mother, Yoko Takebe, is a violinist, and his father, Michael Gilbert, also a violinist, retired in 2001. A first cousin, Miki Takebe, is the Philharmonic's director of operations.
Zarin Mehta and other Philharmonic officials presented the decision as a generational change. Maazel, the music director since 2002, is 77, and Kurt Masur, his predecessor, was 74 when he left that year.
Mehta said that Gilbert's skills were above reproach and that he had other important qualities: fresh ideas, the ability to communicate and "that indefinable leadership quality that you look for."
Orchestra, have put off permanent decisions by hiring interim chiefs.The orchestral landscape is also changing. Elder statesmen of the podium are a diminishing breed. The classical music world is in the grip of a debate about its relevance to society, with the corollary concern that younger audiences must be reached. Some orchestras are experimenting with two or three leaders. Others, like the Chicago Symphony and the Philadelphia
New York may have come under pressure to hire a younger music director with the recent announcement by the Los Angeles Philharmonic that it had snapped up Gustavo Dudamel, a 26-year-old Venezuelan considered the hottest conducting property around.
Gilbert's career has been rising rapidly since he became chief conductor of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra in 2000. He has become a regular guest conductor at major orchestras. Next season he makes his debut at the Vienna State Opera in Bizet's "Carmen."
His musical pedigree is excellent. He substituted as a violinist in the Philadelphia Orchestra (under Muti himself) while studying at the Curtis Institute of Music; became familiar with the Boston Symphony Orchestra while an undergraduate at Harvard; and was an assistant conductor for the Cleveland Orchestra for three years. He also has a conducting degree from the Juilliard School, having studied there with Otto-Werner Mueller.
Gilbert made his New York Philharmonic debut in 2001; three years later he, Muti and David Robertson, now music director of the St. Louis Symphony, were all given regular guest-conducting stints in what was seen as something of a bake-off. Gilbert has conducted the Philharmonic in 31 concerts.
In an interview, Gilbert was unstinting in his praise for the orchestra. It was far too early, he said, to express any specific plans. He said he would like to see it "connecting with the city in a way that's really fresh, alive and current," and that his job was to keep the orchestra at its musical best.
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First Published: Wed, Jul 18 2007. 10 58 AM IST