Sunday, February 12, 2017

Gerson to the rescue

On Nov. 14, 1943, Leonard Bernstein, the 25-year-old assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, was called on short notice and with no rehearsal to replace an ailing Bruno Walter in a philharmonic concert.

History repeated itself, sort of, on Feb. 9, when Joshua Gerson, the orchestra’s 32-year-old assistant conductor, replaced Semyon Bychov in a program of Tchaikovsky’s “Francesca da Rimini” and “Pathétique” Symphony
(No. 6). Bychkov, stricken by a stomach virus, left the podium halfway through a rehearsal; so Gerson was able to work with the musicians – in “Francesca,” but not the symphony – before taking over the concert, and a subsequent performance.

In Bernstein’s case, a star was born. His subbing date was broadcast nationally on CBS Radio, and was front-page news in The New York Times.

Gerson’s concert rescue earned a brief plaudit – “impassioned and incisive” – and this post-concert interview, from The Times’ Anthony Tommasini: