The best thing an orchestra can do to combat assumptions of elitism about classical music is simply to make performances more widely available, to everyone. The New York Philharmonic gets this. America’s longest-running philharmonic was the first orchestra to broadcast on stateside radio, back in 1922. Then Leonard Bernstein took them on network TV, from the 1950s through the 1970s.
New principal conductor Alan Gilbert hasn’t just relied on PBS broadcasts; he has also taken the band to the streaming-music cloud. When releasing over a dozen concert performances from each of the last four years as live albums, the Philharmonic is doing more than showcasing its prowess. It's also giving new fans an all-access crash course in what a season of wildly varying symphonic music can sound like.
The range covered -- from tried-and-true warhorses (Bach, Mozart, Haydn) to 20th-century experimenters (Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Pierre Boulez) and on to composers who are actually alive today (Nico Muhly, Magnus Lindberg) -- is a testament to Gilbert’s wide-ranging tastes. The attached mix of pieces played during recent Philharmonic concerts clocks in at over seven hours long, mostly because it’s good to have complete works in one place. And yet this represents just a portion of the orchestra’s steady-delivering live series.
So keep this post handy, break off the playlist into manageable chunks over multiple listens, and get current with one of America’s best -- and most approachable -- orchestras. Since track titles for classical music releases can get long-winded (while still being incomplete), below is a brief guide regarding who wrote which piece in our appended playlist:
Tracks 1-3: J.S. Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D Minor
Tracks 4-6: Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements
Tracks 7-9: Nico Muhly’s Detailed Instructions, for Orchestra (world premiere recording)
Track 10: Christopher Rouse’s Prospero’s Rooms (world premiere recording)
Tracks 11-14: Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 4
Tracks 15-17: Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story (excerpts)
Tracks 18-20: W.A. Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat major
Tracks 21-24: Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2
Tracks 25-26: Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring
Track 27: Pierre Boulez’s …Explosante-Fixe…
Tracks 28-29: Magnus Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (world premiere recording)
Tracks 30-33: Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 88
Track 34: Arnold Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto, Op. 42
Track 35: Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring: Suite for Orchestra
Tracks 36-37: Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto
Tracks 38-40: Elliott Carter’s Two Controversies and a Conversation (world premiere recording)
Tracks 41-43: Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor