The Next Ones: Alan Gilbert (conductor)

09/02/2009 4:00 AM |

For starters, Alan Gilbert will be the first native New Yorker to hold the post of Musical Director in the New York Philharmonic’s 160-year history. The son of a Japanese mother and an American father, Gilbert was raised on the Upper West Side and attended local (private, natch) schools while he honed his musical skills. Also, Kennedy-young at 42, he’ll be the first non-sexagenarian-or-older to take the post since Zubin Mehta 30 years ago.

Gilbert steps into big shoes: previous music directors of our hometown orchestra include some of 20th-century classical’s biggest names: Mahler, Toscanini, Stokowski, Szell, Boulez and, of course, Bernstein. But it should be easy for him to adapt; the New York Philharmonic is something of a Gilbert-family institution: His father, Michael Gilbert, retired from the strings section in 2001; his mother, Yoko Takebe, still plays violin for the orchestra after 30 years; his cousin, Miki Takebe, is the vice president of operations.

Young Alan has already made a good first impression: he conducted all of the Philharmonic’s free outdoor concerts this summer—something for which his predecessor was hardly known. His official concert hall debut is set for September 17, but the real question is whether he’ll strip the Philharmonic of its fusty façade and help to reinvent it as a relevant institution—one that connects not just with the uptown bluehairs but with the whole city that it serves.

Where you’ll see his work next: Gilbert conducts Mahler’s Third Symphony at Avery Fisher Hall on 9/17.