New York Phil seeks new principal horn

New York Phil seeks new principal horn


norman lebrecht

August 03, 2017

Slipped Disc readers have been asking about an advertisement for auditions in the AFM’s International Musician for principal horn of the New York Philharmonic.

The post has been held since January 1980 by the outstanding Phil Myers, one of the orchestra’s defining personalities.

Rumours of a disciplinary issue leading to Myers’ departure were denied to us by the NY Phil press office a month ago. Myers himself has not responded to emails or phone messages. He is still listed on the NY Phil website as principal horn.

But his job is apparently being advertised.


  • Jim says:

    Maybe he’s retiring?

  • phf655 says:

    I don’t play the horn, or, for that matter, any instrument, so I feel somewhat uncomfortable pointing a finger at someone who has held such a difficult, exposed, position for so long. He has never been the kind of steady, reliable, player that, say, his counterparts in Boston (James Sommerville) or Philadelphia (Jennifer Montone) are and in recent seasons his playing has become even more inconsistent. He is well over 65 years old, and I expected that this announcement (minus the alleged disciplinary issue, about which I know nothing) would be coming soon.

    • Ruben Greenberg says:

      Maybe not as steady-he has had medical issues-but what an artist! That said, you’re right: 67 is well into retirement age and the quit-while-you’re ahead time for a brass player.

      • Carolyn Clark says:

        I am a horn player, and Meyers is fabulous! All the NY Philharmonic horns are excellent, but he was head and shoulders above the rest. Looks like he is definitely gone–Richard Deane is now listed as “Acting” Principal.

    • Don Drewecki says:

      “He has never been the kind of steady, reliable, player that, say, his counterparts in Boston (James Sommerville) or Philadelphia (Jennifer Montone) are….”

      Huh? Sommerville cracks his notes frequently, and even Montone occasionally is insecure. In my listener’s experience, Myers is far superior. The NY Phil’s brass section is superb.

  • harold braun says:

    Last time i saw him onstage,last year,he seemed to have lost weight dramatically….

  • Mark says:

    Chicago and Cleveland have been searching for a new principal horn for almost 2 years. I don’t know why it’s taking so long, but they must not be finding the right fit. By now, they must have auditioned all the interested candidates.

    • Bruce says:

      They should all just offer their positions to one or more of the principals of the Met, and if the Met runs out of principal horn players, keep the job open to offer to the next winner of the Met audition. That’s how most major US orchestras have filled their principal flute, clarinet, and oboe vacancies over the past few years, and it’s worked out pretty well. (And maybe the Met principal hornist who left as 3rd horn of the NY Phil would be willing to return as principal 😀 )

      • NYMike says:

        I’ve thought of Ralske’s return, as well. He left because of Phil, winning principal at the MET and LA Phil simultaneously. He filled in impressively on principal @ the NY Phil many times when Phil was out. He’s damn good.

  • Mark Henriksen says:

    With Phil Myers, whether it is a bad day or a good day, his playing makes a strong impression and I would say when it is good, it is really good. For me, he was a horn star in the company of only a few like Myron Bloom and Dale Clevenger.

  • NYMike says:

    Horn star with the ability to play any horn concerto (R. Strauss, etc.) is one thing. In addition to personal issues, the musical taste to blend with others and not drown them out is another thing altogether,. The NY Phil will sound a lot better without this Phil.

    • Steve P says:


    • Barry says:

      Couldn’t agree more. I’ve seen the NY Phil twice during Myers’ tenure and thought he stuck out like a sore thumb both times because of how inappropriately loud his playing was.

      I see a lot more Philadelphia Orchestra concerts and have actually not been nuts about Montone either, albeit for different reasons.

      • Twa-ing: not so much. says:

        I feel ya re: JM. I don’t have any strong feelings on Phil’s playing (would have liked to see NY Phil with him in the hotseat but it doesn’t look like that’s ever going to happen now) but I have a hard time with that stylistic thing that seems to be most tolerated on the east coast where you give each note a little push after it starts.

      • BarryB says:

        Not all Barrys agree with this Barry.

      • Matt says:

        I am a professional brass player, I have seen Phil live. Him, Smith, and Alessi are amongst some of the finest brass sections I dare say in the world. He DOES not play too loudly, the tone is so pure it produces overtones that add sparkle and color. I will not comment on other professional players negatively in a public form, it is very inappropriate and unprofessional.

        • Joe says:

          Rubbish. If you don’t think he plays too loudly you ought to see a hearing specialist!

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          I never particularly liked his sound. I don’t find it “rich in overtones” and “sparkling”, on the contrary, I find it somewhat flat, lacking in depth, and “watery” (sort of unstable, with little substance). Still he and his colleagues in the NYPhil obviously are competent professional musicians, no matter what one may think about these stylistic questions, but to say they are “among the finest in the world” seems to me to be inappropriate and empty hyperbole, especially when there are so many good brass players today. And when it comes to stylistically apt playing for the traditional symphonic repertoire, many who do that far better then the NYPhil.

          • Kenneth Berv says:

            Some of that lackluster sound, actually more of a baritone horn than a French horn, had to do with the three-in-one Engefbert Schmidd Triple Horn which Phil switched to years ago when he could no longer handle the Conn 8D double horn on which he did get an almost too rich, “cholesterol-heavy” sound. The Schmidd has become quite popular with American players-in fact the entire Philharmonic section, except for the second horn, plays it. Supposedly “easier” and more “accurate”, the trade/off is a more cylindrical (as opposed to conical) expansion which is deficient in overtones, has clearer, more trumpet/like articulation, and breaks up into a metallic edgey sound at volumes greater than mezzoforte. For those reasons, although the horn is manufactured in Central Europe, it is rarely played in European groups.

            Disclaimer-I am strongly biased to the sound of the Conn 8D, which was developed and played by my father and uncles, and then took over the “Hollywood Horn Sound” when the great Vince DeRosa hesrd them on tour with Toscanini and the NBC Symphony in LA in 1950, and switched to the 8D.

          • Joe says:

            You described his tone much better than I could. It is certainly a different sound than any other horn I’ve heard. It almost sounds like something other than a horn. He also used a vibrato that often brought in intonation problems. I agree with another commentator that his switch to the Schmid horn was for the worse. I really don’t like the Schmid sound no matter who is playing it (especially Phil). It’s a so many American horn players are playing something just to help their accuracy but NOT their sound! Maybe they can’t hear?

  • Bruce says:

    Even the all-time greats can stay too long, to the point where they begin to tarnish their legacy, and their departure is met with a collective sigh of relief rather than tributes & encomiums. Clevenger and Herseth come to mind.

  • Jasper says:

    If self-promotion counts for anything, then NY Phil fourth horn, Leelanee Sterrett, should be a favorite to succeed Philip Myers.


    • Groucho says:

      Not to split hairs, but Leelanee Sterrett is 3rd horn.

    • NYMike says:

      She’s 3rd horn and has played principal a few times, sounding very good.

      • Steven says:

        If not missing notes is sounding good. Her playing is robotic with very little expression

        • Kenneth Berv says:

          Quite sad, but that’s what many auditions are about these days, and pedagogy also. Accuracy over musicianship produced assembly line bots. And conductors seem not to mind, not to mention might prefer it so they can impose their personality on the players.

          • Joe says:

            You are right, sir. If you look at the players winning the big jobs the one thing that sticks out is the fact that there is no individuality in their playing. They all sound the same now. They don’t even take risks to add some musical excitement.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    The top orchestras have the luxury to wait until their Arthur appears and pulls the sword from the Stone.

    In the interim, they usually have gifted associate principals who can cover, and fill in with guests from smaller orchestras who desire to prove that they are worthy (some are and some aren’t).

    For these top jobs, while many have the technical skills to cover the role, very few have the musical ability to do what it takes (blending, sound color, soloistic presence) that it takes.

    And the gold standard is someone who can also stand in front of the orchestra and play on the same level as the violin and piano soloists who appear frequently.

    • Kenneth Berv says:

      Their Arthur has come and gone. My Uncle Arthur was principal horn in Cleveland under Sokoloff at 16 in the 1920’s,? then in Philly under Stokowski in the late 20’s and 30’s, then in the NBC (with his brothers Jack and Harry in the section) under Toscanini, and was asked to be principal in Boston in 1954 under Munch. He remained in NYC but was co-principal with his drinking buddy James Stagliano with the BSO on their 1960 tour of Japan and Australia.

  • Mick Mcmickmic says:

    Word from reliable sources is that he threatened amother horn player while on tour in Europe last season.

  • Dr. Dee says:

    Bullying in any workplace shouldn’t be tolerated. Bullies thrive by either intimidating those around them or maintaining the secrecy of their immoral behavior. Shame on the NYP for not exposing his behavior in this disgraceful incident. It seems they missed an opportunity to let the world of musicians know that the NYP workplace values artistry AND professional behavior.

  • Mark Henriksen says:

    His job isn’t advertised on the NY Phil Website.

    • NYMike says:

      It’s advertised in the auditions section of the International Musician (IM) – the AFM’s official monthly publication. American orchestra openings along with some from the Concertgebouw and other foreign orchestras are advertised there.

    • Georgette Sand says:

      No one gets their want ads from the orchestra website. They are advertised in the union paper, and it has been.

  • Cornetto di corni123 says:

    None too soon! It will be very interesting to see if the new person can change the coarse, vulgar ambience to which the entire brass section devolved as a consequence of the long tenure of a player who horribly abused his wonderful gifts.
    Over 25 years of subscribing, at least 8 concerts a year-till a few years ago. Loved wonderful artistry of Phil Smith, trumpet,and Joe Alessi, trimbone, my impression-and fine professionals -was that “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, applied. Our last year the coarse loudness of the entire brass had us covering our ears in tuttis. It was clear-to us at least, that the first horn, who ruined every concert by making solos of tuttis, and often playing solos so loud there was no blend with the ensemble, corrupted all the brass. Even years ago, on his Conn 8D, one of the sitting behind Phil, would threaten to “take his lights out” if he continued to play so loud. In chamber music, and concertos it was another matter entirely. After he switched to his Schmidd Triple, which sounded horrible above a mezzoforte when he played it in the orchestra, he played a Strauss I on a subscription concert that was world class-and I’ve heard Tuckwell, Baumann, and Routch live. It was so good I bought a ticket to hear it again a few days later. He and his audience’s life would have been much better if he had been a soloist.

    • Mark Henriksen says:

      If he was playing too loud, Mazur, Mehta, Or Gilbert could have taken care of it. That he missed quite a bit and still lasted almost 40 years is only because the conductors thought his artistry was worth it.

      • NYMike says:

        The big problem in getting rid of a bullying tenured player is the legal, union and dismissal review maze that must be gone through. Most MDs just don’t the guts or time for this.

      • Cornetto de corni123 says:

        Can’t speak for Mehta, who hired him and obviously likes big and bold, but as Myers became a caricature not only of James Chambers big but beautiful presence of sound, he ended up a caricature of himself as he obtained tenure, and the personal and instrumental bullying took over. He even threatened conductors that he “had tenure” and their term was limited.

    • Joshua Henderson says:

      Is this a bot? The very same post has popped up on at least one other thread that I know of. Strange. I must say though, it is quite impressive that eight concerts a year suddenly makes someone an expert on the state of a player and an orchestra. I guess those of us who have been to 30 concerts a year would not have as much insight as those who have attended eight concerts a year-till a few years ago of course. If anything, these past few years have proven that at 68, the legendary Philip Myers can still command the horn better than any other living horn player out there at this time and because of this premature retirement, his legacy is protected. Of all of us who listen to recordings, is it possible to find another player with the color palette this man possessed? To be able to play with such lyricism and pure tone? To command the tension and intensity of sound from a whisper to a roar that could shake the heavens? To say of any horn player, perfection is impossible, unfounded, and boring. Philip Myers may not have been everyone’s favorite horn player, but Philip Myers was not your typical horn player. Philip Myers used the horn as a vehicle in which to play music and music possess many different qualities. Music can be beautiful; it can be grotesque; it can float and frolic; it can be heavy and dark. Music can be so much and as a musician, Philip Myers was one of few who have been able to capture the many different qualities of music and his contribution to the New York Philharmonic sound will be missed immensely. His recordings are and will be increasingly valued. Personally I would like to applaud his remarkable career and thank him for his tremendous contribution to the world of classical music and horn playing. May he enjoy a long and happy retirement.

      • Wai kit leung says:

        While I am not disputing that Phil Myers is very good, do you honestly believe he can command the horn better than any living horn players in the world, particularly at this stage of his career? Have you heard (or heard of) Radovan Vlatković or Radek Baborák?

      • NYMike says:

        Frankly, I don’t care if you’ve been to 100 concerts/year with your concrete-lined ears unable to hear the horrible balances Myers inflicted on the Phil over the years. As a retired NY professional musician I stand by my previous comment that the NY Phil will sound infinitely better without him – and has whenever he was out with his various medical problems. His bullying of other members of the orchestra over the years should’ve gotten him canned long ago.

      • Native says:

        I think so. San Francisco Symphony. ManyGrammys. Solid superb players. They don’t scratch notes.

    • Bruce says:

      A trumpet player told me this story: Adolph Herseth once went up to the podium to ask Solti a question while the orchestra was warming up. Standing on the podium in Orchestra Hall, he noticed that — from that spot — he couldn’t hear the brass very well. He thought that might explain why Solti always wanted the CSO brass to play louder (and louder).

      (I had noticed that Solti’s recordings with the Vienna or London Philharmonics did not have the “wall of sound” brass effect that his Chicago recordings had. Maybe the acoustics on the podium were more accurate in those venues.)

      • Dean says:

        Bad acoustics? Orchestra Hall, Chicago? Surely, you jest. 🙂

        • CSO attendee says:

          I have seen CSO play in Orchestra Hall hundreds of times and yes, unfortunately the big effort to improved the acoustics back in 2000 or so was only moderately successful. I dream of seeing CSO in a good hall someday.

          • Nydo says:

            Orchestra Hall was renovated in the 1960’s, and I have heard the same stories from after that period of the conductor’s podium being a dead spot in regard to the brass section. According to one of the current orchestra players, a lot of the later renovation in the 2000’s was done with the idea of making the hall a better place for popular music and other events, which in some ways makes the hall a worse place for the Chicago Symphony.

          • CSO Attendee says:

            NYDO, the renovation took place from 1995-1997, and the main thrust of it was to improve the acoustics for the orchestra. I’m not questioning the validity of you’re source but their memory seems to be a bit fuzzy.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      There is definitely some truth to that. I have heard the NYPhil numerous times in Geffen Hall (unfortunately, as that’s a really bad hall), last time was Mahler 6 with Bychkov.
      The horns were almost generally too loud when it came to simple material, long held harmony notes for instance, but when really tricky passages came up, they all receded into a safe (and unexciting) mezzoforte. It was pretty bizarre actually. Myers playing in some key passages, like the long horn solo in the quiet middle section of the first movement, was also prosaic and just played safely loud to make sure all notes speak (which can be tricky in piano) and the phrasing was very incoherent and out of time. And I don’t mean “rubato” but somewhat randomly out of time and not fitting in the context set by Bychkov.

  • Dean says:

    The timing sure is convenient, given how vZ, um, rooted for Martin’s defection from the CSO. Trying to build a defining sound as his initial statement in NY? It couldn’t hurt, right?

  • Dr. Dee says:

    Bullying should not be tolerated in any workplace. Bullies thrive in situations when they can freely intimidate colleagues under cloak of silence and secrecy. Shame on the NYP for continuing to cover up such behavior. In doing so, they missed the opportunity to let future employees know that artistry AND professionalism are valued at the NYP.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    I think he studied with Mack Truck.

    And in regards to Herr Seifert pulling a knife, here in America we pull a gun.

  • Mark Henriksen says:

    The principal from Jaap’s old band is reporting to Berlin in the Fall. Is it possible, he might come to NY instead?

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    One not so minor detail: when musicians-especially wind players-grow older, their hearing declines and they tend to play sharper in the upper registers. Everybody’s hearing declines with age, but especially wind players’, exposed as they are to a deafening amount of decibels day in and day out. Several people have complained about Mr. Myers being too loud. This might be because his hearing has lost its edge.

  • DOGU says:

    he has a big and large sound and new york philarmonic mostly devolaped with his name. İt means he didnt play SO loud . He always played in right atmosfere and rich sound colore!..

  • BillG says:

    There was a RUMOR floating around some folks among some New Yorkers with with close interest in the NY Phil Horn section. It involved a work the NY Phil commissioned for orchestra and horns. According to this RUMOR that was strong disagreement between the Horn section and the music director over the playability and suitability of the work. Other version of the RUMOR included the NY Phil having to bring in alternate horn player for this piece. I find this later version of RUMOR a little odd. If it were true there, that action would have generated some notice.

    The above contains RUMINT material and should be treated as such. Regulations governing the use of such RUINT material apply.

  • Joe says:

    If the NYP is looking to get rid of musicians who stick out like a sore thumb, don’t blend, and believe every tutti is their time to blow everybody out of the water, they ought to get rid of Joe Alessi too then.

    • Cornetto de corni123 says:

      As 25 plus year former subscribers (we quit because the entire Brass section was corrupted by Myers to become coarse and vulgar, not to mention the slovenly often sight-reading society of the fiddles) I can say that Alessi was a wonderful player who changed to compete/join Myers’ bombastic cacophony.

      • Joe says:

        It is interesting that the same thing happened to the Boston Symphony brass section when Schlueter arrived on trumpet. The trombones pushed even harder to try to keep up with his ridiculous volume and their tone (and intonation) went all crazy.

        • Kenneth Berv says:

          So we aren’t the only ones who can’t tolerate the blare of the principal trumpet. Heard only occasionally in Carnegie, can’t judge the effect on the rest of the section, but your comment is quite credible, given our sorry experience with the corruption of the New York Philharmonic Brass.

  • Name Required says:

    Assuming some or most commenting here are musicians…. am I the only one who considers not trash-talking other musicians to be a part of musicianship? Does being able to post anonymously make it OK?

    • Joe says:

      I agree with you that’s why I am out of this petty conversation about someone that’s held a chair in a big five orchestra and has produced many fine performances and recordings. Assuming most or none of these folks have never sat it a principal chair and know the pressures of the job.. don’t comment!!!

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Good question – you tell us! After all, YOU are one of those posting here anonymously. 😉

      • Joe says:

        Yes, because anonymously you can state your true opinions without being denigrated and threatened by cupcakes who are “offended” by just about everything. You should try it sometime if you ever have a controversial opinion about the sacred orchestras/musicians/conductors.

        • Joe Says says:

          The article is about Phil M being dismissed from NY Phil for some sort of bullying incident. The comments have wandered so far off into “bitch about whatever pops into your head” land that I feel like I’ve stumbled into an Alzheimer’s ward.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          I do that all the time. Uncle Norman even threatened to ban me from the site just the other day. You should try standing behind your opinions some time, instead of hiding behind “Joe”.

          • Joe says:

            I’ll do what I want, thanks, dad.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Of course, you are free to hide behind anonymity. It just makes you less credible when you don’t want to put your name to what you have to say.

          • Joe says:

            Truth cares not who it is spoken by. It doesn’t become untrue if spoken by someone anonymous and true if spoken by someone who isn’t.

  • BillG says:

    Speaking of brass overpowering a performance, the English Horn of the Baltimore Symphony shared this essay. “Are Brass Payers Losing the Concept of Being Team Players?”

    • Joe says:

      Wait a second, the author of that piece, Doug Yeo, was in a brass section famous for the excessive bombast of its Principal Trumpet (Charles Schlueter) and the rest of the brass section (including Yeo on his trombone) played extra loud to try to keep pace with him… Hmm, maybe he should have sent that to his own colleagues!

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        You should read the article, “Joe”. In it, Yeo actually basically admits that he finally came to that same conclusion.

    • Kenneth Berv says:

      Great article. He knows whereof he writes -exemplified a few years ago at Carnegie Hall by the wonderful woodwind ENSEMBLE in the BSO Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances, as contrasted with the outrageous SOLO blare of the principal trumpet during stage warmup and carried over into the Mahler Symphony.

  • Julie Lands says:

    Myers played well and with flair. He was loud. So what. Rather have loud horn than soft. Play like your life depended on it. It was the horn. God’s instrument, the instrument that Jesus Christ held dear and Morris Berman wanted to play but couldn’t not. Tyrone Horzfeld tried to help him but couldn’t. That’s life.

  • Tom English says:

    Whatever the controversy, Myers is and was a fantastic horn player. I heard him play the Gliere concerton with the Brevard Music Center Orchestra in North Carolina, and an 8d, before he switched to the Schmid. It was better than any recording of it I ever heard. Yes, I have played horn since the sixth grade and am now in my mid 70s.

  • Pamela Brown says:

    After the terrifying experiences my children and I suffered at the hands of the man I call “Monostatos” and my lockout by the MO, I sent a letter to Phil, whom I had met when he was at the MO and who had at once point asked to do a recital with me, asking for his advice, but it went unanswered…