Question: Your mother is a violinist in the New York Philharmonic. What is it like to conduct her?
Alan Gilbert: My mother is a violinist, a wonderful
violinist, still playing in the New York Philharmonic. I was more aware
of it... I mean, it's not that I forget about it; I’ll never be able to
do that. It's a very unique situation—a kind of fantastic, wonderful
situation. Early in the time I was conducting the orchestra, the first
times with the orchestra, I certainly was more aware of the fact that my
mother was sitting over to my left. Now, frankly, there's so much to
think about, there's so much to worry about, there are so many elements
that I have to keep in my mind that I would say that her presence has
assumed it's sort of proper proportion now. Of course, I'm aware she's
there. I'm happy she's there. I'm lucky that she's playing really,
really well, and there are no issues as far as that goes because I guess
technically I'm her boss, and if there were any sort of issues I'd be
the one who would have to deal with it. She's at the top of her game,
and that keeps it simple.
Question: Does she still give you advice?
Alan Gilbert: Absolutely. She's me mother, after all.
She will often... I mean, sometimes it's silly advice, like “Oh, I
didn't like those clothes you wore, or whatever.” But she says, “Here
it felt a little bit pushed” or “It feels like we could use a little bit
more time on this.” This is really interesting feedback to get, and
because of the hierarchy and because of the nature of the situation,
conductors tend not to get a lot of feedback from the orchestra, which
is probably good because it could become really messy if everybody in
the orchestra felt that it was okay to give his or her advice. And, you
know, there's some boundaries that are probably worth preserving.
also very useful because the musicians are smart and they have a lot of
perspective and experience. Good advice is always welcome, and it
happens that my mother feels comfortable saying things. She basically
leaves me to my work, but occasionally she will definitely say, “Oh,
this was a little fast,” or “We need a little more help with the beat at
this point.” It's useful.
Recorded on June 18, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman