The outgoing Music Director of the New York Philharmonic has lashed Donald Trump in an interview for German public broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk. The American conductor, who will be celebrating the final subscription concerts of his tenure with concerts featuring musicians from around the world – including violist Rosmary Curtin from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and cellist David Berlin from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra – was asked his opinion on the US President.

“So the subject is Donald Trump, yet again. We always try when we have dinner to make a deal that we’re not going to talk about politics, we’re not going to talk about Donald Trump, but somehow it always ends up being the subject matter and here I am again being asked what I think of this, well, really horrible person,” he told NDR. “It’s a scary time because truth and honesty seem not to have currency, I think, it’s hard to know sometimes whether this man lies just habitually or if it’s strategic. But he plays on people’s fears and seems to use dissembling and lying as political strategies.”

Gilbert issued a warning, but also a call to arms for musicians. “I think it’s a dangerous time, I think it’s a time in which art and beauty perhaps have more importance and relevance than ever,” he said. “I hope it’s not too far-fetched to say that at the heart of what we do as musicians is the search for truth and since these days there seems to be a full scale assault on the principles of the Age of Enlightenment, I think we need as musicians to assert ourselves ever more powerfully, to show that there is truth and there still is beauty on the world.”

The conductor himself hopes to lead by example – his final concerts will launch a new initiative in which musicians from around the world gather to perform and promote peace and human rights. “I’ve been working with many musician colleagues and friends to try to use what we do, to use the platform we occupy, to make the world a better place,” he said.  “And I’m hoping with my friend and colleague Yo-Yo Ma – with whom I’m playing later tonight – to realise the idea of an international orchestra made up of musicians from around the world, from many countries from many backgrounds from many cultures.”

“The thing about music that is so wonderful is that it is truly an international language and it can speak to people from all different cultural and religious and linguistic backgrounds,” Gilbert said. “We’re fortunate, I think, to be musicians and even though the challenges facing the world seem somehow to transcend what we do – you know, we’re entertainers in a sense – I hope that what we can offer to the world is a message of inclusion and shared humanity.”