Rest in peace, Avery Fisher

Rest in peace, Avery Fisher


norman lebrecht

September 25, 2015

The hall he endowed for the New York Philharmonic was renamed yesterday.

david geffen hall

Avery Fisher, an enthusiastic violinist and electronics millionaire who died in 1994, gave his life for classical music.

David Geffen, a rock mogul, gave $100 million.

That’s why his name is now on the hall.

There is no room for sentiment in arts fundraising.


  • Marco says:

    You write, “There is no room for sentiment in arts fundraising.” For the moment that is only true In the United States and the result is actually far worse than one may think. By turning their country into an auction house, where the naming of public buildings, arenas, etc. goes to the highest bidder, irrespective of that individuals greater contributions to society and human patrimony, they assure that they will have no historical, civic, or human long-term memory and by extension, no future. Where do they draw the line? Would they rename the George Washington Bridge if a rich tycoon put up enough cash to pay for the bridge’s major repairs? They probably would and in the process they would negate, diminish and devalue the name and significance of George Washington for current and future generations. What a lack of respect of the individual, in this case Avery Fisher. How disgusting!

  • Ronan says:

    It is not mentioned in the blog entry that the three living children of Avery Fisher were paid $15 million dollars in 2014 in order to get their permission to have their deceased father’s name removed from ‘Avery Fisher Hall’ and replaced with the name of a person who would give the most money to a fund raising campaign. That person turned out to be David Geffen after he pledged $100 million towards a $500 million dollar campaign. The saying, “cash talks” has here been taken to the extreme in this case. Indeed, in American society, there is no gratitude, no sentiment, no respect of a past, now deceased, person’s contributions, vision or anything else, not even by his own children. Perhaps soon Abraham Lincoln’s image will be removed from the U.S. $5 bill and auctioned off to the highest bidder. I’m sure that someone like Donald Trump would be interested, but he would probably prefer to bid on the $100 bill adorned today by Benjamin Franklin. No problem, just get rid of those old guys and put a billionaire or a “great” hedge fund manager on it. Pathetic!

  • milka says:

    Easy come easy go …both buying immortality tomb stone with seats.

  • V.Lind says:

    When more people are entering universities to read “Marketing” (as a degree course, as if it were a body of study and learning) than history, this is what you will get.

    Nothing that does not make people buy retains any value any more: terms like cultural, spiritual, philosophical, have no traction any more. There is speculation as to what percentage of jobs will be taken by robots by 2025. But more worrying is the percentage being carried out by the robotic already.

    • Pickled Cabbage says:

      Oct 20th, year 2100. The recently concluded Chopin Competition was won by Robot Japan. Second place was won by Robot USA. No human competitor reached the second round.

      • Holger H. says:

        By then the concept of nation states will have been replaced by corporate empires. Olympic games will have team Apple, team Pfitzer, team Goldman&Sachs. Not kidding…
        Read up the original, italian, definition of fascism…

  • PaulD says:

    I’ll be alone here, and say that I have no problem with this, since Avery Fisher’s family has been compensated. The hall needs rebuilding; do we think that the taxpayers of New York should be tapped for this when there is a willing donor? That Geffen made his fortune in popular music mean that his money is somehow dirty or ill-gained? This is a wealth transfer from the popular to the fine arts, which we should welcome. I also have no problem with the University of California at Los Angeles taking $30 million from the Herb Alpert Foundation and naming the school of music for him. (By the way, Mr. Geffen also donated to UCLA – $100 million for medical school scholarships on top of the $200 million he gave to the medical school itself, which is named after him.)

    • Eleanor Richards says:

      What is wrong with this is not that Mr. Geffen, or any other philanthropist can give money to improve a concert hall, or something else. No, what is wrong here is that these “philanthropists” have no modesty, no sense of respect for other people’s past accomplishments and donation, demanding that their gift is contingent upon the building having to change its name and have their name and inflated egos plastered on it. That is what is wrong. Ego, vanity and a culture of the “self”. Why couldn’t Mr. Geffen give his tax deductible contribution to Avery Fisher Hall, have them keep the name and perhaps put up a plaque with a photo of Mr. Geffen in the foyer and perhaps even name the foyer after Mr. Geffen? Wouldn’t that be enough to satisfy the this American’s need to conquer and show and flaunt their wealth and power? Obviously not. The nation doesn’t know what the word modesty is, nor what respect for the past and those connected to it mean.

      • milka says:

        Point well taken – but the next thing you know people will start naming parts of
        auditoriums after themselves down to toilet stalls ,urinals ,it boggles the mind.

  • Webster Young says:

    To me, this is a civic issue…I lived in the neighborhood for 20 years as an adult, had heard Bernstein at Avery Fisher as a boy, and Lincoln Center is a beloved place to many. It doesn’t seem real to change the name and only the name of place that has been beloved for so long. It shouldn’t be on the table in my opinion.

  • da96103 says:

    Well, they could do like how Stradivarius violins are named. When a famous violinist stop using a Stradivarius (because they decided to use a new one or they died), the violin is sometimes named ex-‘violinist’s name’. They are two ex-Oistraikh Stradivarii, two ex-Thibauds and others.

    David Geffen, ex-Avery Fisher Hall

  • NYMike says:

    Across the plaza from DGH stands the building formerly known as the State Theatre but now titled the David Koch Theatre thanks to his $100 million gift for its renovation. It’s galling to many of us since Koch and his brother are extreme right-wing capitalists who fund many of the Tea Party causes including anti-climate change, anti-women’s health, anti-union and anti-voting. Meanwhile, a Koch Theatre chief tenant – NYC Opera – went bust from bad management and lack of funding.

  • NYMike says:

    I also find it ironic that the NY Phil pays rent in its “home” – originally called “Philharmonic Hall.”

  • milka says:

    It is sadly also about people who believe money will get them an invite to the table of

    • V.Lind says:

      I realise Geffen has been controversial, but he has more or less managed to remain within the bounds of respectability as far as I know. Aren’t you talking about something else? And if you mean class, it cannot be bought.

      However, his philanthropy is widespread and very inclusive of the arts. Let’s face it, Avery Fisher was a businessman too, and his children let themselves be paid off. Geffen is as entitled.

      I just dislike the “naming rights” cycle, as it does erode real memories of the true nature of something in favour of an ephemeral windfall.

    • Holger H. says:

      Welcome to capitalism.

  • John says:

    I doubt if old Avery cares much any more. Halls have been named for their benefactors for a very long time (see Carnegie Hall, Heinz Hall, etc). Seems a bit silly to be quibbling over what is hoped to be a major acoustic improvement over this current iteration in the history of this troubled hall.

    • NYMike says:

      In the case of Carnegie and Heinz, those halls are named after the men who actually funded their building – there’s a difference……

    • Daniel F. says:

      How many times have we been promised “better acoustics” in Philharmonic Hall/Avery Fisher Hall/David Geffen Hall? Let us count the ways. George Szell had it right at the very beginning: “Tear it down and start over,” he said. Had that been done back in 1966 when Szell suggested it, think of the money that would have been saved from all these acoustic-betterment renovations! But in the good old American way of “everything you can do I can do worse,” the acoustics at the Kennedy Center make Fisher-Geffen sound like the Musikverein!

  • Dave T says:

    As a childless man, David Geffen has medical schools and concert halls as his legacy. Avery Fisher, on the other hand, has three now-wealthy kids.

    Clearly the NYPO and the people of New York are the greater beneficiaries of one of them. As to which industrialist would be more proud, satisfied, and accomplished, who is to say.

  • MacroV says:

    Oh yes, those vulgar Americans, I thought to myself as I walked by Generali Arena in Prague this afternoon, came home to watch a Premiere League match from London’s Emirates Stadium, and thought about the recent concert I made a point not to watch with Jose Carreras and Vanessa-Mae at the O2 Arena.

    • Walter says:

      Sorry, but you miss the point. The “vulgarity” comes not from who paid for a building, sports stadium or hall, but the removal of the name of the original funder of the building, as is the case here concerning Avery Fisher. You refer to Americans as “vulgar”. I don’t think that anybody here used that word, although many wouldn’t disagree. What Americans are is seriously lacking any appreciation of history, including their own, appreciation of past accomplishments and those connected to them, appreciation and respect for past figures or personalities who were not TV or film stars.You may call it “vulgarity”. I would call it intellectual poverty on a mass scale.

      • Milka says:

        “lacking any appreciation of history” ??? Didn’t they just come away in the thousands
        from the latest smoke and mirror show put on by the Vatican .That’s respect for history .

  • ruben greenberg says:

    A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

  • James McCarty says:

    Read “Ozymandias.”