It is no surprise that in this economic downturn, classical music has been incredibly hard hit. Even legendary institutions such as the New York Philharmonic are reporting record deficits. I’m sure most of you reading this have rarely been to a classical music concert and your lives would change very little by the New York Philharmonic ending due to the economic crisis. However, even if you don’t go to a concert by the New York Philharmonic every season, its existence should still be important to you because it is a New York landmark.
The New York Philharmonic was founded in 1842 and had its first concert the same year. It is the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States and one of the oldest in the world. The New York Philharmonic was started by a group of local musicians led by American-born Ureli Corelli Hill. The first concert was held on December 7, 1842 to an audience of 600 people in the Apollo Rooms on lower Broadway. This concert opened with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. The list of composers and conductors led the Philharmonic in later years includes people such as Antonin Dvorak, Gustav Mahler (music director 1909-1911), Arturo Toscanini (music director 1928-1936), Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, and Aaron Copland.
On May 5 1891, The New York Philharmonic, with Tchaikovsky conducting, played the inaugural concert of the city’s new Music Hall. This hall would go on to be renamed Carnegie Hall in a few years after its primary benefactor. Carnegie Hall remained the Philharmonic’s home until 1962. The management of the Philharmonic changed in 1909 to ensure financial stability. A group of wealthy New Yorkers led by two women, Mary Seney Sheldon and Minnie Untermyer, formed the Guarantors Committee. This effectively ended the legacy of the Philharmonic as a musician-operated cooperative and turned it into a corporate management structure. This change brought Gustav Mahler to be principal conductor and expanded the season to 54 concerts from 18.
In September 1962, the Philharmonic commissioned Aaron Copland to write Connotations For Orchestra for the inaugural concert at the new Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. And so, the New York Philharmonic is not only a symphony orchestra, but also a classic New York institution that has inhabited some of its most loved landmarks. No matter if you’re a classical music lover or a history buff or just a diehard New Yorker, the preservation of the New York Philharmonic should be important.