Conductor Alan Gilbert has a future at the 'Elphi'

New York Philharmonic
Alan Gilbert conducts the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center

Departing New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert turns out to have had a major post in the works: On Friday, he was named chief conductor of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, formerly known as the NDR Symphony Orchestra, in Hamburg, Germany.

A graduate of the Curtis Institute and former music director of what is now Symphony in C (formerly the Haddonfield Symphony), Gilbert has a long history with the NDR orchestra, having held the official title of principal guest conductor from 2004 to 2015.

His tenure officially begins with a five-year contract starting in the 2019-20 season, though he will be chief conductor-designate as of this fall. He succeeds Thomas Hengelbrock, who led the NDR orchestra through the celebrated opening in January of its new hall, the Elbphilharmonie.

The orchestra’s distinguished history includes the 1980s tenure of now-legendary Gunther Wand. Former Philadelphia Orchestra music director Christoph Eschenbach was also chief conductor, from 1998 to 2004.

The ensemble’s new venue on the Elbe River, the Elbphilharmonie (nicknamed the Elphi), resembles a series of glass waves atop a warehouse. The building was planned to be finished by 2010 but had six years of delays and went hundreds of millions of euros over budget. It’s now acclaimed for its architecture and acoustics.

NDR orchestra director Lutz Marmor called Gilbert “a perfect fit …  Alan Gilbert stands for the highest quality in music, together with a major zeal for innovation and creativity.”

In a statement, Gilbert called the appointment “the perfect confluence of circumstances,” praising the orchestra for “pushing the paradigm of orchestras in the 21st century forward.”