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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Last night, the New York Philharmonic introduced its new music director. Alan Gilbert is the first person actually born and raised in New York to hold the post. And he follows such luminaries as Gustav Mahler and Leonard Bernstein. Still, the shoes he's stepping into are already comfortable for him.

Alan Gilbert literally grew up with the Philharmonic. His parents played in the violin section and his mother still does. Jeff Lunden has this story.

JEFF LUNDUN: Some of Alan Gilbert's most cherished memories of his childhood were hanging out where his parents worked.

Mr. ALAN GILBERT (New York Philharmonic musical director): I was always excited to be around the orchestra. I loved going on tour with the orchestra. And people even playing today remember when I was the - you know, called the little orchestra brat.

LUNDEN: Now, they call him boss.

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LUNDEN: Anthony Tommasini, chief music critic for the New York Times says Gilbert's a somewhat surprising choice for the philharmonic's top post.

Mr. ANTHONY TOMMASINI (Chief Music Critic, New York Times): Alan Gilbert is 42 and he's young, but he's not flashy. He's a very serious, a little self-effacing, rather shy musician. And yet, I'm convinced that New Yorkers will love those qualities about him and that his sincerity and his devotion to communication and to reaching people will really come through.

LUNDEN: Communicating to New Yorkers is very much a part of Alan Gilbert's agenda. Yesterday, the philharmonic opened its final dress rehearsal to the public and broadcast its opening night concert for free on a big screen in Lincoln Center's Plaza.

Mr. GILBERT: I have the hope and the ambition to make the New York Philharmonic something that all New Yorkers can be aware of and proud of. Whether or not they come to concerts, it's a shame when people somehow have the idea that they're not going to be able to appreciate or understand what's happening because, you know, it's pretty straight forward and pretty accessible what we do and part of our job is to make sure that people know that we are really there for them.

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LUNDEN: In a lot of ways, Alan Gilbert represents a tectonic shift for the philharmonic. Carter Brey is the orchestra's principle cellist and says it's the first time he's worked with a music director who's younger than he is.

Mr. CARTER BREY (New York Philharmonic Cellist): I'm relating to him on a generational level in a way I've never related to a music director before. The last two music directors have been from my parent's generation, so I'm relating to Alan as - not as a musical equal because he's my boss in that sense, but as a generational equal, someone who grew up imbibing the same cultural currents that I did.

LUNDEN: And Brey says, Gilbert is kind of the anti-maestro.

Mr. BREY: I'll never forget the day, shortly after he was hired, that I ran into him in the basement of Avery Fisher Hall, getting to know the people who work in the IT department. I've never seen anything like that before. He literally was getting to know the organization from the ground up.

LUNDEN: And he's already making decisions that are putting his own stamp on the Philharmonic where most orchestras would charge an instrumentalist as their artist-in-residence, Gilbert chose a singer, baritone Thomas Hampson.

Mr. THOMAS HAMPSON (Singer, New York Philharmonic Orchestra): It took me by surprise. My first question is, are you really sure you want a signer to do this right off the bat? And he laughed and he said, you know, what I want is a musician who has a whole bunch of different kinds of interests and who likes to talk about them and who can augment the season we'll put together and work into the season that we put together and, you know, building a team. So I said, you know, you're on.

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Mr. HAMPSON: (Singing) 'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis the gift will be free since the gift will come down where you want to be. And when we find ourselves in the place of pride, we'll feel upon your love and be loved.

LUNDEN: Hampson will be everywhere this season, performing and touring with the orchestra and talking with audiences. But critic Anthony Tommasini says where audiences will immediately notice a difference is in Alan Gilbert's programming choices.

Mr. TOMMASINI: He started on principle. I'm going to begin my tenure with a new piece by our new composer in residence. It's a statement.

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LUNDEN: That's a little bit of "Expo," which finished composer Magnus Lindberg wrote for opening night. It's the first time the New York Philharmonic has played a world premier on opening night since Leonard Bernstein played a new piece by Aaron Copland n 1962. Magnus Lindberg says that he was amazed that Alan Gilbert wanted to start the season and his tenure as music director with a new work.

Mr. MAGNUS LINDBERG (Composer): I wanted to do a piece that really could have that opening sort of element in it, so it's like the exposition of his era. It's a new epoch. It's a virtuoso piece, and plenty of noise and plenty of music.

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LUNDEN: Plenty of music is what Alan Gilbert wants to give New Yorkers, new works, right next to masterpieces of the classical repertoire.

Mr. GILBERT: Everything we do is to let people experience music in all its glory and all its' variety.

LUNDEN: For NPR News, I'm Jeff Lunden in New York.

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MONTAGNE: You can hear more of our interview with Alan Gilbert at nprmusic.org.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne at NPR West.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep at Houston.

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