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Alan Gilbert has been musical director of the New York Philharmonic since September 2009. He was previously chief conductor and musical adviser to the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, and has[…]

The conductor’s mother is a violinist in the New York Philharmonic, but he says her presence has assumed it’s proper proportion. “I’m lucky that she’s playing really, really well, and there are no issues … because I guess technically I’m her boss.”

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 rnviolinist, still playing in the New York Philharmonic.  I was more awarern of it... I mean, it's not that I forget about it; I’ll never be able torn do that.  It's a very unique situation—a kind of fantastic, wonderful rnsituation.  Early in the time I was conducting the orchestra, the first rntimes with the orchestra, I certainly was more aware of the fact that myrn mother was sitting over to my left.  Now, frankly, there's so much to rnthink about, there's so much to worry about, there are so many elements rnthat I have to keep in my mind that I would say that her presence has rnassumed it's sort of proper proportion now.  Of course, I'm aware she's rnthere.  I'm happy she's there.  I'm lucky that she's playing really, rnreally well, and there are no issues as far as that goes because I guessrn technically I'm her boss, and if there were any sort of issues I'd be rnthe one who would have to deal with it.  She's at the top of her game, rnand that keeps it simple.

Does she still give you advice?

Alan Gilbert:  Absolutely.  She's me mother, after all.  rnShe will often... I mean, sometimes it's silly advice, like “Oh, I rndidn't like those clothes you wore, or whatever.”  But she says, “Here rnit felt a little bit pushed” or “It feels like we could use a little bitrn more time on this.”  This is really interesting feedback to get, and rnbecause of the hierarchy and because of the nature of the situation, rnconductors tend not to get a lot of feedback from the orchestra, which rnis probably good because it could become really messy if everybody in rnthe orchestra felt that it was okay to give his or her advice.  And, yourn know, there's some boundaries that are probably worth preserving.

It'srn also very useful because the musicians are smart and they have a lot ofrn perspective and experience.  Good advice is always welcome, and it rnhappens that my mother feels comfortable saying things.  She basically rnleaves me to my work, but occasionally she will definitely say, “Oh, rnthis was a little fast,” or “We need a little more help with the beat atrn this point.”  It's useful.
rnRecorded on June 18, 2010
rnInterviewed by David Hirschman