Philharmonic's New Conductor is Violinist's Son The New York Philharmonic announced the appointment this week of Alan Gilbert as its next conductor. His mother, Yoko Takebe, a member of the Philharmonic's violin section, talks with Jacki Lyden about the prospect of her son being her boss.
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Philharmonic's New Conductor is Violinist's Son

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Philharmonic's New Conductor is Violinist's Son

Philharmonic's New Conductor is Violinist's Son

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Yoko Takebe is a violinist with the New York Philharmonic. Earlier this week, she learned she's getting a new boss.

Ms. YOKO TAKEBE (Violinist, New York Philharmonic): That's Alan Gilbert who happens to be my son.

LYDEN: Takebe's son, Alan Gilbert, will become the music director of the New York Philharmonic in 2009. Well, congratulations.

Ms. TAKEBE: Thank you very much. It's really exciting and I think he is very fortunate and I hope he will do well.

LYDEN: Were you surprised at his appointment?

Ms. TAKEBE: I must say it came earlier than I thought. I thought that he had potential, but he's still, as a conductor, he is relatively young. And for someone to become a music director of New York Philharmonic, that's a really huge position.

LYDEN: So he'll be 42 when he takes the position. And you pointed out a moment ago, he's stepping into some pretty big shoes. The former music directors of the New York Philharmonic include Gustav Mahler and Toscanini and Leonard Bernstein.

Ms. TAKEBE: That's a formidable list of names.

LYDEN: Well, let me give you a great, big softball question - you are his mother, after all. Is your son up to the task?

Ms. TAKEBE: I believe so. And with everyone's support, I'm sure he can do the job.

LYDEN: He has conducted several times, as you have performed. Your husband, Michael Gilbert, also was a violinist with the New York Philharmonic, now retired. What kind of feedback have you and your husband given your son and what's he said to you?

Ms. TAKEBE: Well, when he is conducting, my mind is running mile a minute, just - I have thoughts. Well, this could be better. I would say maybe it's better to take more time here, or I think this plays sounds too loud or too soft - that kind of thing - because we want him to do well. So I have to be very tactful and not impolite.

LYDEN: You know, an orchestra can be like any other workplace, a place where everyone likes to talk about the boss. Maybe if someone is feeling crossed with him, is that going to place you in an awkward situation with your colleagues?

Ms. TAKEBE: That's something that I'm starting to be aware. I have to be clever, you know, like - because we all express opinions and we complain or we admire. And I - just because I'm around, I don't want them to not to be able to talk about the conductor. I don't want any special treatment. And I want to be one of them and at the same time, I want the colleagues' support for my son. So it might be a little bit delicate, I don't know.

LYDEN: Now, you've been a member of the orchestra since 1979.

Ms. TAKEBE: Yes.

LYDEN: So how has this affected your career plans?

Ms. TAKEBE: Well, in the last few years I started wondering, well, when am I going to stop, you know? And I am 65 years old, but I think I'm still able to play and I enjoy playing. So if Alan is going to be the music director in two year's time, I think it will be fun to play, at least, one or two seasons. And somebody, a colleague of mine joked and said, well, maybe you won't have to make a decision when to retire. The music director might fire you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. TAKEBE: I don't know if that's a good thing in public to say but…

LYDEN: Violinist Yoko Takebe. Her son, Alan Gilbert, will take over as music director of the New York Philharmonic in September of 2009. Thanks very much, Ms. Takebe.

Ms. TAKEBE: Thank you. Thank you very much.

LYDEN: And let's hear a little bit of Alan Gilbert's work. Here he is, guest-conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in Ottorino Respighi's "Fountains of Rome."

(Soundbite of song, "Fountains of Rome")

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