Alan Gilbert

The sound of America: Korngold & Copland

In the »Age of Anxiety« festival, the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra and Alan Gilbert explore the musical culture of America. Available until 12.3.2022.

Please note: This stream is available until 12.3.2022.


The USA in the 20th century – a nation in a time of upheaval and awakening, searching for a cultural identity. This period of self-discovery led to the creation of a rich and compelling music culture. Under Alan Gilbert, the NDR ensembles now delve into the diverse sounds of this period in the »Age of Anxiety« festival. In the opening concert, the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra and its chief conductor present works by Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber. The programme features Barber’s enthralling »Essay for Orchestra«, and Copland’s Symphony No. 3 and his controversial »Lincoln Portrait«. Violinist Leonidas Kavakos returns to Hamburg as a star guest to perform Korngold’s melodious Violin Concerto.


Gala concert with American music

Alan Gilbert and his orchestra also celebrated the Elbphilharmonie’s fifth birthday on 11 January 2022 with some fantastic American music: they got the festival week underway in style with John Adams’s thrilling »Short Ride in a Fast Machine«.

The Artists

NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester

Leonidas Kavakos violin

conductor Alan Gilbert

Morris Robinson narrator


Aaron Copland
Lincoln Portrait

Samuel Barber
Essay for Orchestra Op. 12

Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35

- Interval -

Aaron Copland
Symphony No. 3

Live stream on 19 Feb 2022: »Age of Anxiety«

Two other concerts in the »Age of Anxiety« festival are being broadcast live: on 13 February, the NDR Bigband dedicates itself to the greats of American Cool Jazz, Miles Davis and Chet Baker. And on 19 February, the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra performs works by Samuel Barber, John Adams and Leonard Bernstein.

Alan Gilbert Alan Gilbert © Peter Hundert
Leonidas Kavakos Leonidas Kavakos © Marco Borggreve
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra © Nikolaj Lund

About the Music

Inspiration from distant lands

America’s musical culture was shaped from the very beginning by the fruitful ideas and inspiration imported into the country by the large number of immigrants. After all, it was a European by the name of Antonín Dvořák who first created the right conditions for the emergence of a classical »national music«.

Another composer who continued this trans-Atlantic exchange was Erich Wolfgang Korngold. He wrote some of his greatest works in and for America. The Austrian-in-exile’s Violin Concerto was premiered in 1947. In it, the brilliant composer, whose roots lay in the lush late-Romanticism of the Richard Strauss era, reused themes from his film music works, which continue to influence the »Hollywood sound« to this day.

Lincoln Portrait by Aaron Copland

Another American composer brought one of his country’s greatest statesmen onto the concert stage, at least in spirit: in his 1942 work »Lincoln Portrait«, Aaron Copland quotes from legendary US President Abraham Lincoln’s speeches and letters. The work was political dynamite – so much so that it was banned during the McCarthy era due to allegedly communist leanings, and a performance of it in Venezuela even sparked a revolution against the dictatorial regime.

Song of America: A Celebration of Black Music

Leah Hawkins
Leah Hawkins © Sophie Wolter

In 2021 the famous baritone Thomas Hampson gave a festival celebrating the music, poetry, and stories of Black composers, writers, and artists. The concert streams are available until June 2022.

Samuel Barber: more than the »Adagio for Strings«

The concert programme also features music by the child prodigy Samuel Barber: it was no less a figure than the Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini who championed Barber in the early days. Toscanini conducted the premiere of Barber’s »Essay for Orchestra« in 1938 – together with the »Adagio for Strings«, whose fame has overshadowed so many other rewarding works by Barber.

Copland’s »American monument«

Copland also composed a key work of American orchestral music. To quote Leonard Bernstein, his Third Symphony is an »American monument, like the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial«. The brilliant work from 1946 is crowned by an ostentatious finale in which Copland quotes his popular »Fanfare for the Common Man«.

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