New York Philharmonic

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Ureli Corelli Hill, founder and first conductor. New York Philharmonic Archives

The New York Philharmonic is the oldest active symphony orchestra in the United States, formed in 1842. Based in New York City, the Philharmonic performs most of its concerts at Avery Fisher Hall and is now considered one of the top symphonies in the world. The orchestra is older than any other American symphonic institution in existence by nearly four decades and older than all but two European orchestras; its record-setting 14,000th concert was given in December of 2004. <ref name = "NYP"> Template:Cite web </ref>


[edit] Founding and First Concert, 1842

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Apollo Rooms, First home of the Philharmonic. New York Philharmonic Archives

The orchestra was founded by Ureli Corelli Hill in 1842 as the Philharmonic Society – the third Philharmonic on American soil since 1799, declaring as its purpose "the advancement of instrumental music." The first concert of the New York Philharmonic, on December 7, 1842, took place in the Apollo Rooms on lower Broadway before an audience of 600. The concert opened with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 (the second performance of this work in New York) led by American-born conductor Ureli Corelli Hill, who was also founder and first president of the Philharmonic. Two other conductors, German-born Henry Christian Timm and French-born Denis Etienne, led parts of the eclectic, three-hour program, which included chamber music and several operatic selections with a leading singer of the day, as was the custom. The musicians operated as a cooperative or "communistic" society, deciding by a majority vote such issues as who would become a member, which music would be performed and who among them would conduct. At the end of the season any proceeds were divided amongst themselves.

[edit] Beethoven's Ninth and a New Home, 1846

After only a dozen public performances and barely four years old, the Philharmonic organized a concert to raise funds to build a new music hall. The centerpiece was the American premiere of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to take place at Castle Garden on the southern tip of Manhattan. About 400 instrumental and vocal performers gathered for this premiere. The choral parts were translated into what would be the first English performance anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, the high ticket prices ($2.00) and a war rally uptown kept the hoped-for audience away and a new hall would have to wait. Although judged by some as an odd work with all those singers kept at bay until the end, the Ninth soon became the work performed most often when a grand gesture was required. In 1865, Theodore Eisfeld conducted the Orchestra’s memorial concert for the recently assassinated Abraham Lincoln but in a peculiar turn of events which was criticized in the New York press, the Philharmonic omitted the last movement ("Ode to Joy") as being inappropriate for the occasion.

[edit] Competition, 1878

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The New York Philharmonic Club, a chamber ensemble of Philharmonic musicians, clowning for their public-relations photograph in the 1880's. New York Philharmonic Archives

Leopold Damrosch, Liszt's former concertmaster at Weimar, served as conductor of the Philharmonic for the 1876-77 season. But failing to win support from the Philharmonic's public, he left to create the rival Symphony Society of New York in 1878. Upon his death in 1885, his 23-year-old son Walter took over and continued the competition with the old Philharmonic. It was Walter who would convince Andrew Carnegie that New York needed a first-class concert hall and on May 5, 1891 both Walter and Russian composer Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky conducted at the inaugural concert of the city's new Music Hall, which in a few years would be renamed for its primary benefactor, Andrew Carnegie.

The German-born, American-trained conductor Theodore Thomas, who had achieved fame and great success conducting his own orchestra (the Thomas Orchestra) in competition with the Philharmonic for over a decade, began conducting the Philharmonic in 1877 and raised it to a virtuosic level. In 1891 Thomas left New York to found the Chicago Symphony, taking with him 13 Philharmonic musicians.

Another celebrated conductor, Anton Seidl, followed Thomas on the Philharmonic podium, serving until 1898. Seidl, who had served as Wagner's assistant, was a renowned conductor of the composer’s works; Seidl's romantic interpretations inspired both adulation and controversy. During his tenure, the Philharmonic enjoyed a period of unprecedented success and prosperity and performed its first world premiere written by a world-renowned composer in the United States – Antonín Dvořák's Ninth Symphony "From the New World." Seidl’s sudden death in 1898 from food poisoning at the age of 47 was widely mourned. Twelve thousand people applied for tickets to his funeral at the Metropolitan Opera House at 39th Street and Broadway and the streets were jammed for blocks with a "surging mass" of his admirers.

[edit] Under New Management, 1909

Gustav Mahler

In 1909, to ensure the financial stability of the Philharmonic, a group of wealthy New Yorkers led by two women, Mary Seney Sheldon and Minnie Untermyer, formed the Guarantors Committee and changed the Orchestra's organization from a musician-operated cooperative to a corporate management structure. The Guarantors were responsible for bringing Gustav Mahler to the Philharmonic as principal conductor and expanding the season from 18 concerts to 54, which included a tour of New England. The Philharmonic was the only symphonic orchestra where Mahler worked as music director without any opera responsibilities, freeing him to explore the symphonic literature more deeply. In New York, he conducted several works for the first time in his career and introduced audiences to his own compositions. Under Mahler, a controversial figure both as a composer and conductor, the season expanded, musicians' salaries were guaranteed, the scope of operations broadened, and the twentieth-century orchestra was created.

[edit] Age of Mergers and Outreach, 1921

When the Philharmonic merged in 1921 with the National Symphony, it also acquired the imposing conductor Willem Mengelberg. For nine years he dominated the scene, although other conductors, among them Bruno Walter, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Igor Stravinsky, and Arturo Toscanini, led about half of each season's concerts. During this period, the Philharmonic became one of the first American orchestras to boast an outdoor symphony series when it began playing low-priced summer concerts at Lewisohn Stadium in upper Manhattan. In 1924, the Young People's Concerts were expanded into a substantial series of children's concerts under the direction of American pianist-composer-conductor Ernest Schelling. This series became the prototype for concerts of its kind around the country and grew by popular demand to 15 concerts per season by the end of the decade.

The year 1928 marked the New York Philharmonic's last and most important merger: with the New York Symphony Society. The Symphony had been quite innovative in its 50 years prior to the merger. It made its first domestic tour in 1882, introduced educational concerts for young people in 1891, and gave the premieres of works such as Gershwin's Concerto in F and Holst's Egdon Heath. The merger of these two venerable institutions consolidated extraordinary financial and musical resources. At the first joint board meeting in 1928, the chairman, Clarence Mackay, expressed the opinion that "with the forces of the two Societies now united... the Philharmonic-Symphony Society could build up the greatest orchestra in this country if not in the world."

[edit] The Maestro, 1930

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Arturo Toscanini (standing in the center, sporting a bow tie and cap) with the Orchestra aboard the S.S de grasse, embarking on their European tour, 1930.. New York Philharmonic Archives

Of course, the merger had ramifications for the musicians of both orchestras. Winthrop Sargeant, a violinist with the Symphony Society and later a writer for The New Yorker, recalled the merger as "a sort of surgical operation in which twenty musicians were removed from the Philharmonic and their places taken by a small surviving band of twenty legionnaires from the New York Symphony. This operation was...performed by Arturo Toscanini himself. Fifty-seventh Street wallowed in panic and recrimination." Toscanini, who had guest-conducted for several seasons, became the sole conductor for the joined forces and in 1930 led the group on a European tour that brought immediate international fame to the Orchestra. In the same year nationwide radio broadcasts began and continued without interruption for 38 years. A legend in his own time, Toscanini would prove to be a tough act to follow as the country headed into war.

[edit] The War Years, 1940

After an unsuccessful attempt to hire the German conductor, Wilhelm Furtwangler, the English conductor John Barbirolli and Pole, Artur Rodzinski, were joint replacements for Toscanini in 1936. The following year Barbirolli was given the full conductorship, a post he held until the spring of 1941. In 1943, Rodzinski, who had conducted the Orchestra's centennial concert at Carnegie Hall in the preceding year, was appointed Musical Director. He had also been conducting on the Sunday afternoon radio broadcast when listeners around the country heard the announcer break in on Arthur Rubinstein's performance of Brahms's Second Piano Concerto to tell them of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Soon after the United States entered World War II, Aaron Copland wrote Lincoln Portrait at the request of conductor Andre Kostelanetz as a tribute to and expression of the "magnificent spirit of our country."

[edit] The Telegenic Age, 1950

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Leonard Bernstein with members of the Philharmonic rehearsing for a television broadcast, circa 1958. Bert Bial, New York City Philharmonic Archives

Leopold Stokowski and Dimitri Mitropoulos were appointed co-principal conductors in 1949, with Mitropoulos becoming Musical Director in 1951. Mitropoulos, known for championing new composers and obscure operas-in-concert pioneered in other ways; adding live Philharmonic performances between movies at the Roxy Theatre and taking Edward R. Murrow and the See it Now television audience on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Orchestra. In 1957, Mitropoulos and Leonard Bernstein served together as Principal Conductors until, in the course of the season, Bernstein was appointed Music Director, becoming the first American-born-and-trained conductor to head the Philharmonic.

Leonard Bernstein who had made his headline-grabbing debut with the Philharmonic in 1943 was Music Director for 11 seasons, a time of significant change and growth. Two television series were initiated on CBS: the Young People’s Concerts and "Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic." The former program, launched in 1958, made television history, winning every award in the field of educational television.

[edit] Modern Music, 1962

Bernstein, a life-long advocate of living composers, oversaw the beginning of the Orchestra's largest commissioning project resulting in the creation of 109 new works for orchestra. In September of 1962, the Philharmonic commissioned Aaron Copland to write a new work, Connotations for Orchestra, for the opening concert of the new Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The move to Lincoln Center brought about an expansion of concerts into the spring and summer. Among the many series that have taken place during the off-season have been the French-American and Stravinsky Festivals (1960s), Pierre Boulez's "Rug Concerts" in the 1970s, and composer, Jacob Druckman's Horizon's Festivals in the 1980s.

In 1971 Pierre Boulez became the first Frenchman to hold the post of Philharmonic Music Director. Boulez' years with the Orchestra were notable for expanded repertoire and innovative concert approaches, such as the "Prospective Encounters" which explored new works along with the composer in alternative venues. During his tenure, the Philharmonic inaugurated the "Live From Lincoln Center" television series in 1976, and the Orchestra continues to appear on the Emmy Award-winning program to the present day.

[edit] Ambassadors Abroad

Zubin Mehta, one of the youngest of the new generation of internationally known conductors, became Music Director in 1978. Throughout his career Mehta has shown a strong commitment to contemporary music. During his tenure as Music Director, 52 pieces were presented for the first time. In 1980 the Philharmonic, always known as a touring orchestra embarked on a European tour marking the 50th anniversary of Toscanini’s trip to Europe this time led by Mehta.

Kurt Masur, who had been conducting the Philharmonic frequently since his debut in 1981, became Music Director in 1991. In addition to bringing the Orchestra to new virtuosic heights, the highlights of his tenure included a series of free Memorial Day Concerts at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and annual concert tours abroad that included the orchestra's first trip to mainland China. His tenure concluded in 2002, and he was named Music Director Emeritus of the Philharmonic.

[edit] A Third Century, 2000

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Lorin Maazel, Photo by Chris Lee

In September 2002, 60 years after making his debut with the Orchestra at the age of 12 at Lewisohn Stadium, Lorin Maazel became Music Director of the Philharmonic. In his first subscription week he led the world premiere of John Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls commissioned in memory of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. In keeping with the longstanding Philharmonic tradition, he has pledged to challenge audiences through the commissioning and performance of new music, while continuing to present the revered classics. On December 18, 2004, the New York Philharmonic performed its 14,000th concert, a milestone unmatched by any other symphony orchestra in the world, setting a Guinness World Record.

The current Assistant Conductor of the orchestra is Xian Zhang. Maazel is scheduled to conclude his tenure as the Philharmonic's music director at the end of the 2008-2009 season. As of November 2006, no successor has been named. In addition, Avery Fisher Hall is scheduled to undergo renovations starting in 2010.

[edit] List of Music Directors

[edit] Awards and Recognitions

[edit] References

  • Shanet,Howard.(1975).Philharmonic: A History Of New York's Orchestra.Garden City New York, Double Day And Company Inc
  • Erskine,John.(1943).The Philharmonic Society Of New York: Its First Hunderd Years.New York, The Macmillan Company
  • Lawrence,Vera Brodsky.(1988).Strong On Music: The New York Music Scene in The Days of George Templeton Strong VOL 1-3.Chicago,The University Of Chicago Press
  • Krehbiel,Henry Edward.(1892).The Philharmonic Society Of New York: A Memorial.New York and London, Novello Ewer and Co.
  • Huneker,James Gibbons.(1917).The Philharmonic Society Of New York: And its 75th Anniversary, A Retrospect.New York and London, Novello Ewer and Co.
  • Tommasini, Anthony, "The Philharmonic's Double Challenge". New York Times, June 11, 2006. (Accessible only to subscribers to TimesSelect.)

[edit] Notes


[edit] External links

de:New Yorker Philharmoniker es:Orquesta Filarmónica de Nueva York fr:Orchestre philharmonique de New York he:הפילהרמונית של ניו יורק ja:ニューヨーク・フィルハーモニック pt:Orquestra Filarmônica de Nova Iorque fi:New Yorkin filharmonikot zh:纽约爱乐

New York Philharmonic

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