New York Philharmonic drops principal horn from its all-stars

New York Philharmonic drops principal horn from its all-stars


norman lebrecht

September 14, 2017

Meet the New York Philharmonic All-Stars, an online campaign to engage concertgoers with the top players.



Missing from the set is the principal horn, Phil Myers.

Phil has been principal horn since January 1980 and is still listed as such on the NY Phil website. The orchestra has refused to comment on reports of a disciplinary issue that led to his departure. 

Local media have kept shtum. But Phil’s absence from the all-stars appears to confirm he has blown his last.






  • Anon. says:

    Whilst other sources say he is absent due to medical reasons. Whatever the actual reason is I don’t think it is fair on the individual or organisation to speculate.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      If he was unwell, the organisation would say so.

      • Bruce says:

        They might not, if he asked them not to.

      • John says:

        In the States, legally, an employer can’t comment on the health status of an employee.

        • herrera says:

          That’s news to me, I feel like management practically gave out the doctor’s charts for James Levine and Riccardo Muti (when he fainted with a heart problem in Chicago) regarding their health.

          I mean poor James Levine, does the whole world really need to know the exact progression of his disease and the effect it has on his motor control of his arm and lower body?

          The only thing the Met left out was a picture of his latest colonoscopy.

          • pme says:

            Employers can’t unilaterally release medical records or information related to employees without their consent. If the Met issued any updates that Levine didn’t agree to and authorize, there would have been a major and public lawsuit.

          • Cynthia Curme says:

            Levine was secretive and deceptive about his medical condition and did not operate in good faith towards the BSO while he was here. So it was indeed an issue.

  • Alexis says:

    Aaah well they advertised his position like ten days ago… So…

  • Itsjtime says:

    Out of All of the great musicians of the New York Philharmonic who act like jack-asses….he plays the loudest and takes up the most space.

    All balls and bluster….nary a nuance.


    • kundry says:

      Totally agree! The comment about playing and the lack of nuances extends to the whole orchestra. With the one exception of Masur’s tenure, during which he tried to make something out of that band and was opposed all the way by most, the orchestra has been irrelevant since the days of Bernstein. They play the notes mechanically and “professionally” – not even those always clean or together, but they have forgotten how to make music.
      Van Zweden will not help – definitely not major league. The only advantage he has is his strong headed attitude – that would work in New York. Unfortunately, he cannot back it up musically.

      • John F Kelly says:

        You missed Maazel’s tenure then………………….

        • Steven says:

          Maazel’s tenure? The tenure of absurd conductor interpretations (slowing down to half speed when there is no reason to) and absurdly over the top brass playing? The only thing I got from his tenure was a headache.

      • Bruce says:

        Yeah, they’re such a terrible orchestra. Super terrible. You obviously have to be really loud and bad to win a job there.


      • John Borstlap says:

        What a ridiculous, deaf comment about the incoming MD of the NY Phil. The accolades around JvZweden’s musicianship span the entire classical music world. There will be people who don’t like his performance style, but that is the case with every great conducting talent. And also Bernstein always got a lot of critique, which by now seems to have fizzled-out, and his recordings remain as something special.

        • herrera says:

          JvZ didn’t get good reviews with the Berlin Philharmonic and has yet to re-appear with the orchestra since his debut as a last minute substitute. Out of courtesy, he’ll probably get invited back as head of NY, like Gilbert.

          • John Borstlap says:

            “Der satte, reife, vollgesogene Ton der Streichergruppe ist prägendes Element des Abends – Fans des vielbeschworenen „deutschen Klangs“ müssen sich keine Sorgen machen. Unglaublich majestätisch heben die Streicher über dem pulsierenden Ostinato der Pauke an, wie selbstverständlich legt sich Guy Braunsteins Solovioline im zweiten Satz darüber. Unentwegt bauscht sich das musikalische Gewebe auf und nimmt sich wieder zurück, ein Organismus, blutdurchpulst und doch klar geschichtet – bis hin zur Monumentalität. Van Zwedens Brahms-Bild ist eindrucksvoll, doch er sieht in ihm vor allem einen Titanen, einen romantischen Riesen.”

            “A star is born. Jaap van Zweden springt für den erkrankten Mariss Jansons ein, führt die Berliner Philharmoniker durch Bartóks vertracktes „Konzert für Orchester“ und schließt mit einem begeistert gefeierten Brahms.”

            Es war eine eindrucksvolle Visitenkarte, die der Niederländer am Freitag in der Philharmonie hinterließ, und es darf nicht wirklich verwundern, daß er von manchen Kennern der Szene bereits als Nachfolger von Sir Simon Rattle gehandelt wird, der ja seinen Vertrag nicht über 2018 hinaus verlängert hat. […] Van Zweden hat, später auch im zweiten Teil bei der Ersten von Brahms, die Partitur vor sich liegen, obgleich er sie nicht braucht. Er weiß um jedes Detail dieses genialisch orchestrierten Spätwerkes, und er weiß, noch die kleinste rhythmische Verschiebung, noch die feinste Klangfarbenschattierung den Philharmonikern zu entlocken. […] Van Zweden möchte Teil der Musik sein, statt lediglich vorn zu stehen und Anweisungen zu geben. Brahms habe er im Blut, sei Teil von ihm, genauso aber hätten die Berliner Philharmoniker ihre Brahms-Tradition, die sie ihm vermittelten. […] Statt nur das Bombastische der Ersten Symphonie von Brahms herauszustellen, sucht, und findet, van Zweden immer wieder die zärtliche, die weiche, die anmutige Seite des gebürtigen Hamburgers, etwa in dem sehr schönen, expressiven Meno-allegro-Schluß (das Holz!) des Eröffnungssatzes und im Oboen-Solo.”

            Obvioulsy vZw had made a very strong impression and was even suggested as following-up Rattle. He will now bring his full-blooded sound to the NY Phil.

      • Jon H says:

        The hall is decent but not outstanding, and the conductors are often decent but not outstanding – so even if the orchestra was outstanding, most of the time there isn’t really a combination of outstanding things. But when the best conductors are in front of them, great things are happening.
        Like Gilbert, Van Zweden has some interesting things to offer – and also isn’t quite at his peak – so there will be some great concerts with him, but there might be some routine performances as well. For an MD, you have to just embrace the interesting things – because at some point, they will move on. And I don’t care what anyone says about Maazel, he was interesting sometimes and there’s no getting him back.

        • Jon H says:

          The first paragraph I’m sure applies to the LSO in the Barbican

        • Jon H says:

          As for Phil Myers – in 1980 he wasn’t joining a happy section – things are much better now. And there were some great years of him with Phil Smith and Joe Alessi – arguably a peak of brass playing in the NY Phil. Just listen to the old recordings – had some big individual players (like Vacchiano), but anyone who listened especially to Cleveland or Chicago during that same period was hearing better intonation and section balance.

          • John Porter says:

            I was just listening to a bunch of those older recordings, Shostakovich 5 with Bernstein, Maher Two, Mahler Three, Rite of Spring, the Brahms Cycle, Schubert 9, all Columbia/SONY, and the brass sounds pretty damn balanced and in tune from tuba to trumpet. There’s nothing from the Cleveland, Philly, or Chicago recordings of that period that sound any better to my ears. The trombone/tuba chorales in the Mahler 2 are about as good as it gets.

          • Joe says:

            I heard some of those Bernstein DG recordings live in the hall and the DG engineers turned the volume of Myers WAY down from what it sounded like in the hall and had to have made several splices where he was all over the place missing notes and having a horrid tone (on the Conn 8D which still sounded better than the Schmid he later switched to). Cleveland brass has always realized that they are not the only important section in a piece of music.

      • Mark Henriksen says:

        Clean out the earwax. They still sound fantastic! Mazur was given the keys to a race car but had been used to the old world charm of a Bentley. At least Mehta and Maazel let them play.

    • Mark Henriksen says:

      I’ve been lucky then because all the players I’ve met were nice people. The part you got right is that they are also great players.

  • harold braun says:

    Kundry,total bullshit.Seemingly you don´t have ears or haven´t heard the orchestra under Maazel or,indeed Alan gilbert

  • Bruce says:

    Since he’s leaving (for whatever reason/s), it wouldn’t make sense to continue using him as a lure for future ticket buyers.

  • NYMike says:

    Stop beating a dead horse! Meyers is gone. The NY Phil principal horn opening has been advertised on Local 802’s journal Allegro, the AFM’s journal International Musician and the Phil’s own website. I look forward to their season’s opening concerts of Mahler 5th WITHOUT Meyers and WITH JvZ who’ll knock your socks off!

    • Steven says:

      Maybe people would stop beating the horse if we got an explanation about why a player who was in the orchestra since 1980 is all the sudden gone. Did he resign? Did he get fired? Is it a medical condition? Did he threaten someone on tour???? Easy questions to answer.

      • Sarah says:

        Who knows! All that can be said is the previous management all were fired and it seems they wanted to take it out on somebody! No one was threatened, that’s for sure. That came from the rumor mill.

      • pme says:

        Not really sure why anyone feels that the NYP owes anybody an answer on why Myers is no longer with the orchestra. The NYP is / was his employer. Employer / employee matters are by their nature confidential, as are any terms of separation, unless there is an agreement or legal requirement to make them public. Compounding that you have the union involved.

        Sure, a sudden departure without comment is unusual, but neither party is under any obligation to the nosy public to make any further statement.

        While he was employed in a prominent position in a prominent orchestra, he is still just a horn player. Its not like he’s not a head of state or important government official, where one could argue a public disclosure is important.

        I’ve been a subscriber for just shy of 30 years. While not as militant about it as some others on the board, I will admit to enjoying the concerts when Myers was absent more than the ones where he was in the band. I look forward to seeing the new page turned and what it brings (just like I’ve enjoyed hearing the beginnings of Chris Martin’s tenure on trumpet, as much as I appreciated Phil Smith). I wish Myers well in his retirement, next adventures or whatever it is.

        Life goes on………..

        • pme says:

          sorry, typing with my thumbs today. I meant…..

          “Its not like he is a head of state or important government official, where one could argue a public disclosure is important…..”

        • Joe says:

          Yes, well I guess if there is no official explanation the rumor mill will continue (rumors that probably exaggerate or falsify what actually occurred).

    • Quint B says:

      This guy again. Clealry you have some
      personal vendetta against Myers. What’s your damage man? No one is that malicious against a player they do not agree with. Are you blaming him for an audition you did not win or some other failure of yours?

      • NYMike says:

        Nothing personal. FYI – I’m a retired musician with major orchestra and commercial studio experience who knows what he hears. I’m a subscriber both at Carnegie Hall and at Lincoln Center hearing most of the world’s great orchestras each season.

        • NYMike says:

          Oh – and CLEARLY your attempt to characterize my view on Myers as anything other than musical knowledge is pure BS.

          • Quint B says:

            Oh, so a freelancer. Maybe a string player too from what I read. No big shock there. Seems out of place to criticize only one guy for playing loud when the entire brass section plays loud. Subscriber or not, seems like you’re personally after this guy.

      • NYMike says:

        You missed the part where I said I had major orch. experience before becoming a successful studio (TV, film, records, commercials) musician. You also can’t seem to get off the personal crap. In the orch. Myers has been the most tasteless ensemble-destroying musician I’ve experienced in more than a 60+ year professional career. Quite a few of my NY Phil friends agree with my assessment.

  • J'aime la musique says:

    Where can I find a list of the NY Phil’s “All-Stars?” I find it interesting that the two musicians pictured above are not principal or MAIN (as opposed to Associate) principal players.

  • John Porter says:

    It’s no secret that Meyers had been quite problematic and that NYP administrations had been asked by many members of the orchestra to do something about his behavior. With a change in administration and another incident, something was done. He’s been retired and the job is posted. In all fairness to Meyers, he is one of the last of a breed: a highly original sounding principal player in a major orchestra and you could identify out of hundreds of other players at any time across his career. He’s on some splendid recordings and had a 37 year run as principal. It’s time.

    • NYMike says:

      A good example of Myers’ over-inflated ego is the NY Phil’s recording of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnole conducted by Masur and played often on NYC’s WQXR. The big horn solos are so stretched that Masur is forced to follow Myers instead of the other way around. The ability to play a Strauss horn concerto does not necessarily equate with the ability to lead a horn section or blend with the other winds. In Myers’ case, it didn’t.

      • harold braun says:

        hehe….Do you seriously believe someone in the world could force Kurt to follow him?
        Ridiculous!It´s precisely the way Kurt wanted it,especially since the recording,in contrary to the Sherazade on the same disc,was made under studio conditions.Just btw,i attended a NYPO rehearsal with Masur whwn they played Shostakovich in Cologne,maybe 22 years or so ago.Kurt and Phil had a little discussion…and of course it became clear that Kurt called the shots!

        • NYMike says:

          You have evidently not listened as a subscriber year after year in Fisher/Geffen while Myers ruined the ensemble concert after concert. As a retired musician who once played there, I stand on my statement the Phil will sound infinitely better without him. One rehearsal in Cologne is hardly an event to judge by.

          • NYMike says:

            And Masur had to learn that his autocratic behavior in Leipzig wasn’t allowed in NY, thanks to union rules. The orch. comm. chair had to remind him of this more than once.

      • West Davidson says:

        First off, if you listen to Phil Myers’s actual solo recordings, he never takes that kind of time on a phrase when the piece does not actually call for it. He has spoken before that he does not agree with stretching out time like that because it takes away from the phrase. Second off, if anyone was requesting for that much time to be taken, it would be the conductor, not the player. Anyone out of college would know that…

      • Mark Henriksen says:

        Muzur was a bore who didn’t let the brass play. That was Mehta’s brass section!

    • Steven says:

      What was the incident? No one seems clear…

  • Ben says:

    Well, the Avery Fisher Hall’s acoustics is so bad, I doubted if the musicians could clearly hear each other.

    So the “loudness”, “ego-driving” playing style in some sections could be for compensating that, so others could hear the leading parts.

    I do not enjoy NYPhil’s performances as an ensemble at “Avery Fisher” (the “pre-sell out” name). However, if you happen to attend their chamber music performances, you will find the NYPhil musicians having great musicianship and virtuosity.

    • NYMike says:

      The addition of apparati resembling conga drums to the sidewalls of the stage during Masur’s time solved the problem of musicians being able to hear each other. I agree with you about the Phil’s musicians and their chamber concerts. It’s never been about their abilities, only about the orchestra gestalt.

  • Jon says:

    Let’s face it, Myers isn’t the only player in that brass section who plays ridiculously loud. Maybe he played more grotesquely than the others and missed far more notes but you can’t say with a straight face that Alessi doesn’t play way too loud most of the time. Oftentimes the low brass will dominate chords so much that you can’t hear the other sections!

    • NYMike says:

      While often too loud, the lower brass at least plays in balance with itself with all the notes in a chord audible. The hall exacerbates brass and winds while being unkind to strings.

      • Joe says:

        Were you there a couple years ago when Michael Gast filled in for Myers? How did he sound?

        • NYMike says:

          I told Gast that I was sorry to see him go when the MN Orchestra 16-month lockout was finally settled. Eric Ralske left the Phil because of Myers, winning principal horn in both the LA Phil and the Met orch simultaneously. It was easier to move across the plaza than across the country. Any more questions?

          • Kim says:

            because of phil? or because he made everyone miserable and no one on the committee wanted him around???

          • Joe says:

            How did Gast sound compared to Myers or Raske. I’ve heard him sound both brilliant and terribly inconsistent with Minnesota.

          • NYMike says:

            In NY he was refreshingly consistent in the concerts that I attended. Comparing sounds becomes a matter of personal taste. Of the three, I like Ralske the most and obviously Myers the least. My all-time favorite – Mason Jones.

  • Matt says:

    I always wondered how strained the relationship between Phil Smith and Phil Myers was over 30+ years? Smith being very conservative in his playing and Myers being just the opposite. I can’t imagine that didn’t clash a few times.

  • Don Jones says:

    I always thought Myers had too much vibrato in his playing. I go back far enough as a NYP subscriber to remember being surprised by it when he was new in the orchestra.
    A “layman’s view”: I am only an amateur musician but veteran concert-goer who no longer lives in the NYC area.

  • BETH says:

    ..the continuing musician’s struggle..

  • Morris Belemans says:

    Why did Myers go? Until an answer is provided, we shall not attend their anemic /geriatric concerts performed by obedient robots and carefully playing. J’aime le son du Cor!