Rock mogul puts his name on Avery Fisher Hall

Lincoln Center today sold the naming rights to its main concert hall for $100 million. The winning bidder is David Geffen, co-founder of Asylum Records and Dreamworks. Geffen has shown no previous interest in orchestral music.

Geffen said: ‘As a native New Yorker, I recognize that Lincoln Center is a beacon to artists and musicians around the world. To be involved with such a beloved and iconic institution is deeply satisfying.’

The announcement of David Geffen Hall comes days after a new chairman of Carnegie Hall, Ronald Perelman, called for more rock content in the venerable concert hall. The writing is on Manhattan’s walls.

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  • $100 million is kind of expensive for naming rights to the home of the NYPhil, after all, it’s just a remodeling job. Walt Disney Hall, home of LA Phil, spanking new hall, designed by Gehry, with beautiful acoustics, cost the Disney family only about $135 million.

  • My understanding is that Fisher Hall is going to be a gut renovation – the only thing that will stay is the outer shell, and with real estate prices being what they are in Manhattan, $500m is on the low end.

    Norman’s point about classical institutions being more willing to cut deals with the pop/rock world is key here. Geffen and Perelman bring access to different worlds beyond the old-guard cultural circles that have long been asked to pony up the $$. Those old-money donors are either dying out or moving their support to education and health care these days. I’d expect to see a lot more pop and rock influences in both halls in the years and decades to come.

  • The writing is on the wall that these billionaires are investing in the arts. Let’s see which British billionaires put up these kind of sums. How about the new Branson LSO Hall? It’s easy to dismiss this kind of philanthropy but it is reassuring. If this means a few more Rock evenings at Carnegie Hall or with the New York Philharmonic then so be it. There are plenty of evenings available for concerts and it’s not as though all of the evenings are sold out when classical is playing. Classical music has balkanized itself and perhaps we are seeing a turning of the wave.

  • Why is this writing on the wall? Who is going to put money on the new Rattle Hall? Branson? The U.S. has incredible tradition of philanthropy and if that means more variety in the concert hall then fine.

  • Why is this the writing on the wall? Who will finance the Rattle Hall? Branson? The U.S. has an incredible tradition of philanthropy unlike many European nations that find their cuts to be dire when government funds most of the arts. If David Geffen or Ronald Perelman request a little more Rock – and Geffen has not – then so be it. It is time for the balkanization of the arts to end and for Rock and Classical to stand side by side even at the New York Philharmonic.

    • Crazy comment. Rock is primitive entertainment for people who don’t know better, classical music is an art form who DO know better. Nothing wrong with both but please don’t confuse or mix them.

      • What an arrogant comment that “Rock is primitive entertainment for people who don’t know better, classical music is an art form who DO know better”……….but coming from an aspiring classical composer what should one expect.
        As much as I love Mahler, Bruckner, Shostakovitch and Janacek there is nothing that compares with the visceral thrill of hearing Led Zeppelin start “Kashmir” or “When the levee breaks” or hear that opening drum sound of the Stones “Sympathy for the Devil”
        And I can get the same thrill from hearing Jessye Norman in Strauss’s Four Last Songs as I can from Ella singing “Solitude”.
        I thought was had got over this class system between musical genres and dispensed with the conceit and arrogance displayed by classical musicians (and critics) towards “modern rock music”
        Just to help you along try a little of “Weasels ripped my flesh” by Frank Zappa or if you are feeling really brave “Trout Mask Replica” by the inimitable Captain Beefheart, now that really is weird!

        • I believe you have just proved his point. Unfortunately, it is only natural to be offended if someone says straight out that the entertainment you enjoy is not of the same quality as what artists consider art. And it is all too easy to try to promote a diplomatic democratic idea that every form of expression should be respected equally. Of course everyone has the right to attempt to express themselves or create art. But ‘art’ comes from ‘artifice’ and requires a certain degree of skill. Certainly you wouldn’t think that a rapper who doesn’t know the common rules of grammar should receive the same honor and respect as Shakespeare. I will give that Zappa a listen, but in return I suggest you learn the basics of 4-part writing, counterpoint, and orchestration, and then try to write a fugue and do some harmonic analysis of those Zeplin or Stones alongside of the Richard Strauss. Yes, rock music can make a wonderful impression, but so can a crude joke or a vulgar scream.

          • I cannot read music or even sing and what I respond to is the emotion of the music, be that Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration, Ellington playing Take the A Train or The Water boys launching forth into The Whole of the Moon not to mention the purety of voice of Nusrhat Fata Ali Khan as he immerses himself in one of his devotional songs.
            I do not have to understand it to validate it, all that is required is an open mind and a willingness to go at timers down untrodden pathways, similar to what I experienced upon first hearing Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler.
            So rather than operate a class system based on subjective values I prefer to remain “musically ignorant” but with an open mind.
            And yes, classical music can make a wonderful impression but so can a crude joke or a vulgar scream……….and listening to Boulez has induced the latter!

    • I’m with you to a certain degree. I have never had any reservations about performing Keith Emerson’s Piano Concerto no. 1 with Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto no. 1 in the same bill. Ditto Neil Sedaka’s Manhattan Intermezzo with Chopin’s Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise. When done tastefully, is a delicious mix for the audiences. Perhaps with David Geffen Hall, there could well be a Sir Elton John ‘Piano Concerto’, or Sting ‘Suite for Orchestra’. The sky’s the limit!

  • Carnegie Hall has always presented tons of popular programming. Plus, if you want your nephew’s alt rock band to play at Carnegie, you can rent it easy as pie. If “Carnegie Hall Presentations” go from 30% rock to 35% rock, it’s hardly the end of the world.

    Plus, being a donor (however major) to an organization hardly gets you as much pull as being the board chair for goodness’s sake. The comparison is a non sequitur.

    • You can rent Carnegie Hall easily, but don’t forget you have to pay the stagehands (Slipped Disc passim)…

  • A very expensive tomb stone …
    First Carnegie , now this …. “the price of everything and the value of nothing ” crowd

  • The old hall is terrible. The Fishers should be glad to have their name off it and New York should be glad that someone is willing to pay to try one more time.

  • And now what about the 280 million Americans who do not live in rich financial centers where wealthy donors live and work?

  • I can’t image that Geffen would specify something like inclusion of “rock” music in this new hall. I bet there are few dark nights available for something like that. And if the orchestra can’t prioritize the use of the hall for itself, what’s the point.

  • Since the US Government’s support is infinitesimal – the entire NEA budget is less than half of what it takes to run the Met Opera – we have to be thankful for the private philanthropy that we have. Having one more chance to right the acoustical wrongs of the original LC Philharmonic Hall should bring a note of happiness to NY’s concert-goers.

    The history of pop music @ Carnegie Hall goes back to the Paul Whiteman days of the 1920s, continuing on to Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Liza Minelli, Nina Simone, Barry White, etc. Major American and foreign orchestras plus great classical soloists will continue to be the majority of events there.

    Both the NY Philharmonic (paying for part of the renovation), LC’s Great Performers series and Mostly Mozart summer festival, still having first choice over dates in Geffen Hall, should allay mostly ungrounded fears here.

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