New York needs concert hall ‘that suits our temperament and time’

New York needs concert hall ‘that suits our temperament and time’


norman lebrecht

October 08, 2017

Russell Platt in the New Yorker has written a shrewd assessment on the impasse over the New York Philharmonic’s concert hall at Lincoln Center.

A half-billion dollar upgrade has been scrapped after the orchestra got cold feet about spending too long in exile. Donors are not rushing forward to match David Geffen’s naming gift. So what now?

Read here. 


  • Vince says:

    The cancellation can only mean Borda is looking to repeat her feat of opening an extravagant, new concert hall. It will be amazing if she can pull it off in NYC and wouldn’t be surprising if the cost runs near a billion dollars.

    • Olassus says:

      It means she doesn’t need “new concert hall” on her résumé and has selfishly used her powers of persuasion to destroy plans laid without her and replace them with actions generating faster changes with less fund-raising.

  • Simonel says:

    The Geffen Hall is fine, there is no need to fix it, are these people crazy?

    • john f kelly says:

      No sir/madam, they are not, and you are deaf.

    • William Safford says:

      Unlike some people, I have no problem with the ’60s decor. I can live with it.

      Like almost everyone, I loathe its acoustics.

      I also find the seating position on the side balconies highly uncomfortable. You sit facing the side balcony on the opposite side of the hall. You have to turn to the side to look at the stage. This is stupid and uncomfortable.

      • Stephen Owades says:

        I spend a great deal of time in Symphony Hall, Boston, both on stage and in the audience. My subscription seat is on the side of the first balcony, and—like all side balcony seats in both Symphony Hall and David Geffen Hall—it faces across the auditorium rather than toward the stage. No one complains about the acoustics or sight lines in the Symphony Hall balconies. And, by the way, all the balcony seats in the original version of Philharmonic Hall faced forward; the current arrangement was the result of renovations along the way.

        • William Safford says:

          Hi Stephen, long time no chat.

          I’ve been in Symphony Hall only twice or thrice. Its far superior acoustics more than compensate for the seating position in the side balconies. Plus the sight lines just feel more comfortable than in Geffen Hall.

          I’m too young to remember being in Philharmonic Hall, although I may have been there as a child.

  • John Porter says:

    These things are ordinarily researched before moving forward. One would imagine that the prior regime of the NYP had researched their $500m goal before announcing, but sometimes these things are fudged. I would not be surprised if Borda did her homework on the campaign and discovered that it would not be so easy. NY is a much bigger town than LA, with much more competition for dollars and the NYP has never been a top fundraiser here. And, other more powerful fundraising organizations in NY have been backing away from big capital plans. My guess is that there will be another renovation to the hall, but not a gut renovation like they had hoped for. What will this be, something like the fifth renovation since it opened?

    • Olassus says:

      Borda did not raise the funds that built Disney Hall. Or secure the land for it. Or manage the design process. Or solve the many challenges.

      She arrived AFTER all that, once the structure was up.

      Just oversaw a season or two leading up to the hall’s opening — in other words, the EASY part (of a 17-year process).

      Then she tried take credit.

      • John Porter says:

        Sorry, but Borda didn’t “try” to take the credit, she took the credit and today’s news is that she did it all and that raising $500m in NYC would be a piece of cake for her. I heard this from foundations execs, musicians, and just about everyone.

        • Olassus says:

          It is pathetic that the NYPhil board, having made the grand announcement, would just two years later reverse itself.

          Its members must be as wimpy as those on the Met Opera board.

          Happy not to depend on them and their vain managers!

      • M2N2K says:

        That statement is inaccurate and misleading. Most of the funds were indeed raised when DB arrived in LA at the end of 1999, but “the structure” was nowhere near “up” – active construction had not even began yet, which is why the hall could not be opened until September 2003. During those crucial three-and-a-half years, she led the efforts in overcoming numerous remaining challenges, such as serious conflicts between the architect and the builders, as well as choosing some of the materials and staying on budget, and she even managed to change a part of the design. The credit that is generally given to her for completing the entire project and for the hall’s successful opening is well deserved.

  • herrera says:

    1) Is Geffen Hall accoustically flawed or is it the NY Philharmonic that is accoustically flawed? I’ve heard the NYP in other venues in the US, in Europe and in Asia. It sounds exactly the same anywhere it plays. No one has ever mistaken NY for Cleveland when it plays Carnegie Hall.

    2) Geffen Hall will never raise the $500 million. It’s basic human psychology. You already gave away naming rights to the first billionaire (and there are plenty in NY) who gave a $100 mil, there’s nothing left to hand out for a $100 mil, so what’s available for $50 mil? Nothing, nothing else in the hall is worth 50% of getting your name attached to the entire building for perpetuity. Everyone is already looking at other institutions to put their name on. The Geffen Hall ship has sailed, and everyone has moved on.

    3) Borda should call it quits and retire with the triumph of LA Phil and Disney Hall. Nothing she does at Lincoln Center will top that.

    • Stuart Goldstein says:

      Why does someone always have to “get something” for their donation? I’ll never understand this. It would be in better taste to donate anonymously and revert back to “Philharmonic Hall”.

    • William Safford says:

      Have you ever listened to another orchestra in Geffen Hall?

      The hall has poor acoustics.

  • herrera says:

    In the end, Geffen really just put $85 million into renovating the hall, because $15 million went to pay off the heirs of Avery Fisher for accepting to scrape grandpa’s name off the wall.

    I hope Geffen has loyal heirs … in perpetuity.

  • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

    The conductor from Sweden will fix the problem. Let’s see.

  • William Osborne says:

    I’m happy to see Russell Platt rising at the New Yorker which I think will inevitably move toward a changing of the guard. The magazine will need a critic who suits the newly evolving “tempermant and time.” Andrew Porter, with his scholarly sensibility and sophistication represented the cultivated and progressive spirit of New York during his reign from 1974 to 1992 — that dying era of Rockefeller style Republicans.

    Porter was replaced by Alex Ross who became a spokesman for the newly evolved postmodernism with its vague concepts of hipness and the commodification of classical music – a manifestation of the larger forces of neoliberalism and market fundamentalism that had overtaken American society.

    Platt now represents the new form of progressive thought that is slowly emerging among the millennials, the sort of American-styled, mild social democracy proposed by Bernie Sanders. This generation rejects postmodern/neoliberal market fundamentalism and is returning to the social ideals that created of the old New York State Theater. (In the ultimate irony, during the postmodern/neoliberal era, it was renamed for David Koch, a driving force behind the Tea Party.)

    As the millennials take the reins of society the NYer will shift its editorial stance to represent this more openly progressive view. The “Ya godda be hip, ya godda merchanize” ethos of postmodern/neoliberal market fundamentalism will be slowly left behind. The music critic of the NYer will be someone more like Platt. Or ironically, someone a bit more like Andrew Porter. The pendulum of history…

    • MWnyc says:


      1) Russell Platt has been at The New Yorker for years now. He does the classical music listings in the front of the magazine.

      2) There’s no indication at all that Alex Ross is leaving The New Yorker.

      • Alexander Platt says:


        Russell Platt, my brother, does a bit more than the listings at The New Yorker, and he and Alex Ross make a great team. They are quite different, and complement each other very well.

      • William Osborne says:

        True, no concrete indications, but postmodernism is wearing thin, and historically, the NYer seems to change music critics in line with the changes of eras. It is a gradual process, and I expect postmodernism will continue its slow motion death throws for a number of years to come. Still, I find Platt’s voice refreshing, and as his brother notes, he provides perspectives that balance Ross’, and in ways that I think speak to a younger generation.

  • Alexander says:

    just off the cuff : The Met and the Bolshoi will stage 3 new opera productions in the next 3-4 years. Mrs. Netrebko will ( hopefully) dazzle in all 3 co-productions. That was said for the record.
    leave the rest of the news to Norman to enlarge on the subject ( if he wants , of course) 😉

  • Save the MET says:

    Borda is just what the NY Phil needs right now. She is smart, savvy and a superb leader. The MET would be on far better footing had they taken her rather than the troll that currently lurks there.

  • Stephen Owades says:

    Regardless of the fund-raising challenges facing the New York Philharmonic in its quest for a new home, the orchestra simply can not afford to be without a performing home for two or (likely) three years. Disney Hall is down the block from the LA Phil’s old venue, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, which was in use by the orchestra until Disney Hall was ready. But there’s no backup venue for the New York Philharmonic to tide them over the construction period for a new Hall in the old shell. Carnegie Hall, which looked like such a backup at one point, is far too busy as a presenting entity to be available for more than a few concerts. And if the Philharmonic were to go without a home for three years, its subscribers might not be there when the new space is ready. So they have to figure out some plan to improve the current hall without that kind of disruption.