When Mr. van Zweden was appointed, some critics worried that, since his reputation was based largely on performances of the standard repertory, he would give new music short shrift. His first season is carefully calibrated to suggest it should not have to be an either/or proposition.
Mr. van Zweden will conduct plenty of old favorites, including Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, and works by Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler and Shostakovich. But he will also lead five world premieres: Louis Andriessen’s “Agamemnon,” part of a focus on that Dutch composer; Julia Wolfe’s “Fire in My Mouth,” a multimedia choral work about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire; David Lang’s opera “prisoner of the state,” a take on Beethoven’s “Fidelio” and the centerpiece of a season-ending festival of “music of conscience”; and pieces by Ashley Fure, who will write a new work for opening night on Sept. 20, and Conrad Tao.
“A lot of people thought I was the guy who likes Bruckner, Brahms, Beethoven — and that’s absolutely true,” Mr. van Zweden said. But he emphasized that he had been an advocate for new music as chief conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra from 2005 to 2013. “It’s fine if people did not recognize that,” he added. “But I’m very happy that I can bring some new works to the New York Philharmonic and to its audiences.”
The Philharmonic still faces challenges. Its musicians’ contract expired in September, and negotiations for a new agreement are underway. The question of just what to do about its widely unloved hall remains unresolved. Ms. Borda wants renovations that can be achieved in phases, so the orchestra is not left…