Arts and Krafts

By Alan Gilbert

One thing about great art is its ability to speak to a wide spectrum of humanity, and its uncanny knack for getting people with widely differing outlooks to see what they want to see in the work. This week Kraft, Magnus Lindberg’s landmark piece from 1985, has proven itself as a great work of art, as evidenced by the power and conviction of the responses it has provoked, responses I should say that have largely left the middle ground empty. I hasten to add that the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

Yes, some people walked out, but the real majority stayed, and their acclamation seemed to be congratulating us not only on the performance, but on our decision to offer this piece. This was not some fringe crowd: these were our beloved subscribers. Over the weekend I was stopped numerous times on the street by people who had heard the Philharmonic perform Kraft – all of them thanked me for providing this artistic experience for New York City. On Sunday, when I was in Citarella on the Upper West Side, a white-haired woman tapped me on the shoulder and said that she had heard Friday’s concert. I admit that I half expected a complaint, but was I wrong! She said that she has been a longtime subscriber, that she loves the New York Philharmonic, and that she had never had such an exciting experience at the Philharmonic as the one that Kraft had provided. Who would have guessed? She then mentioned that she was looking forward to our performance of Brahms next Saturday. Then there was the guy who stopped me when my kids were scootering through the park, who told me how happy he was to have experienced Kraft. He said that he wasn’t sure that he cared to hear the piece again, but that he was grateful to the Philharmonic for giving him the chance to get to know the work. He went on to thank me for making this orchestra culturally relevant again. What a perfect response to the work!

I write all this not to crow about our success, but to thank people for following us on this journey of musical exploration, for understanding what we are about as an arts organization. There’s no one who loves the music of Haydn and Brahms (to name only two) more than I do, and I never get tired of conducting or listening to Beethoven symphonies. But art is not meant only to be safe and predictable: I dare say that one of the things that made Kraft thrilling for so many was the fact that they had no idea that it would speak to them as it did.

The New York Philharmonic has long been one of the world’s greatest orchestras, and my job as Music Director is to preserve and build on this legacy. This means that we will continue to play the widest range of orchestral repertoire as well as it can be played, while at the same time taking risks, striving to add to New York City’s artistic landscape in a way that places this Orchestra squarely at the center of cultural and intellectual discourse.

(For more information on Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, visit

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