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New York Philharmonic weekend at the Barbican

A programme of celebrated works and contemporary music under masterful conductor Alan Gilbert

30 March, 2017 — By Sebastian Taylor

Alan Gilbert conducting the New York Philharmonic. Photo: Chris Lee

A splendid programme of classical and contemporary music is being played by the New York Philharmonic during its third inter­national residency at the Barbican this weekend.

It’s the last opportunity to hear masterful conductor Alan Gilbert at the helm as he’s stepping down in July after eight years, having turned the NYP into one of the world’s top orchestras.

The NYP’s Barbican residency consists of three evening programmes seeking to combine celebrated works in the orchestral canon with contemporary music. Thus, the first concert tomorrow (March 31) contrasts two very different styles of orchestral writing: Bartók’s vigorous Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta with Mahler’s joyous fourth symphony. German soprano Christina Landshamer joins the orchestra in the final movement of the Mahler to perform the song around which the entire symphony is built.

On Saturday (April 1), John Adams’ 70th birthday is being marked by a performance of his concerto for string quartet and orchestra, Absolute Jest, twinned with Berlioz’s dream-like Symphonie fantastique.

On Sunday (April 2), there’s more Adams, his Harmonielehre, fusing Romantic expressiveness with minimalist idioms and his Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra from his opera Nixon in China.

This is twinned – and the undoubted highlight of NYC’s residency – with the European premiere of Finnish composer Esa-Pekka Salonen’s cello concerto with famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma as soloist. The concerto’s premiere received great critical acclaim when it was given by the NYC in New York earlier this year.

In addition to orchestral concerts, NYP musicians are performing a Very Young People’s Concert on Saturday at Milton Court, next door to the Barbican Centre, for children aged three to six. There are all sorts of workshops for wind, brass and percussion together with mentoring and masterclasses plus programmes to develop young composers’ skills in exploring sounds of different instruments.

• The New York Philharmonic’s Barbican residency runs from March 31-April 2, Silk Street, EC2, 020 7638 8891,
March 31: Mahler 4th Symphony + Bartók’s Music for strings, percussion & celesta: New York Phil, Barbican, 7.30pm, from £15
April 1: Very Young People’s Concert: New York Phil, Milton Court, 2.30pm, £12
April 1: Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique + Adams + Beethoven: New York Phil, Barbican, 7.30pm, from £15
April 2: Esa-Pekka Salonen’s new cello concerto: Yo-Yo Ma/New York Phil, Barbican, 7.30pm, from £15

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