Where will the NY Phil go when the wreckers move in?

Where will the NY Phil go when the wreckers move in?


norman lebrecht

December 03, 2019

We understand there will be two periods of reconstruction work at Lincoln Center that will displace its Philharmonic tenant.

In the first onslaught in 2022, the NY Phil have booked an overseas tour and a longer than usual summer break.

In the second, they will put on a season at Carnegie Hall which has cleared its schedules for the return of its erstwhile resident.

The risk is, the players may get so nostalgic for Carnegie love they won’t want to go back home.


  • anon says:

    Occupy Carnegie Hall!

    The should squat the hall, chain themselves to the stage, go on a hunger strike, and reclaim their rightful home and their rightful place among the best venues on the planet.

  • phf655 says:

    Yesterday’s announcement states the following: •” May 2023–February 2024, during which the Orchestra will perform in New York City venues, mostly Carnegie Hall and New York City Center”.
    Carnegie Hall, though air conditioned, is lightly used between early June and late September. There is nothing in the announcement that says that Carnegie Hall will ‘clear its schedule’ for the Philharmonic. That would mean that for half of a season there would be few if any visiting orchestras or recitalists.
    Some years ago the idea of the Philharmonic moving back to Carnegie Hall (where it played until 1962) was floated, until everyone realized what it would do to Carnegie Hall’s impressive offerings of musicians from all over the world, unique in the USA really.

  • The View from America says:

    No matter what you call that baby — Philharmonic Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Sir David Geffen-Hall — and no matter what you do with it — it’s still one ugly-sounding Hall.

    • Kolb Slaw says:

      I disagree. I experienced it in the 1980s and it was not bad at all, just not perfect. I remember a piano recital by Bella Davidovich, thoroughly enjoyable, charming, and not harmed in any way by the hall. I think the issue was more the failure of the conductors to adjust the balance in the orchestra to work with the environment. The solutions are simple: abandon modernism and apply decorative elements to all the flat surfaces to disperse the sound waves, and alternate reflecting surfaces with absorptive surfaces such as velvet, to lessen the harshness and loudness. Plaster, stone, wood, glass and velvet. Problem solved for $5,000,000 or less.

      • I experienced it in the 90s. It was dead.

        A poor venue for orchestral music, what it was intended for.

        I hope the new revision creates a concert hall worthy of the great city.

  • Michael says:

    Is it still called Avery Fischer Hall by the cities’ residents?

    • drummerman says:

      Yes and we still call Avenue of the Americas “Sixth Avenue.”

      • david hilton says:

        And Madison Square Garden is still a name applied to an arena nowhere near Madison Square.

        • Ed in, but not of, Texas says:

          Nor is it square nor is it a garden, which is a comedy line I first heard more than 60 years ago at an event held in “The Garden”, but not the current Garden at its current location.

      • Gaffney Feskoe says:

        And the Met Life building will always be known as the Pan Am building by some of us of a certain age.

        • drummerman says:

          And we still call the train station at 42nd and Lexington Grand Central Station, even though the correct name is “Grand Central Terminal.”

          • DaveT says:

            And for me it will always be New Amsterdam.

          • littleknownfacts says:

            Grand Central Terminal refers to the train station that is the end (terminus) of the Metro North train lines. Grand Central Station refers to the underground subway station through which subway trains pass to go on to other stations.

          • Michael says:

            What about the Triboro bridge? Or is that triborough?

        • Ed in, but not of, Texas says:

          Yes, that too

  • Bill says:

    One big reason, maybe the biggest reason, why the Philharmonic did not move back to Carnegie was because it is wildly inconvenient for the musicians to commute there. I remember some of them complaining bitterly about the potential move.

    Many of the Phil musicians live in New Jersey and drive to work just after morning rush hour over the George Washington Bridge. There is little parking around Carnegie, even at the insanely high prices in that area, plus it is in an area that has much higher traffic volume. Carnegie, by the way, is within the zone that will soon have an extra toll to enter, making it that much more expensive to drive to. Lincoln Center is just outside of it.

    In addition, many of them teach at either Juilliard or Manhattan School of music. The proximity of Geffen Hall to Juilliard is obvious and it is a short subway ride or drive to get to MSM.

    The superior acoustics of Carnegie are not enough to counterbalance the inconveniences and considerable added expense they would face working there everyday.

    • sam says:

      Because that’s what a concert hall is, a work place.

      Next up, cubicles on stage.

      Because I hate it when my co-workers sitting next to me make sound.

      • Bill says:

        So, are you saying the musicians aren’t working? At the end of the day, it’s a job, and it’s work for them, just like the rest of us. Maybe their job is better than most, but like you and me, workplace issues affect quality of life, and if we can, we make decisions based around that.

        The fact is, commuting in and out of Manhattan is a nightmare, and it’s only getting worse. The area that Carnegie is in is probably one of the most highly trafficked areas in the city, if not the country. Taking the train is not an option if you live in the suburbs; late night service on the commuter rails is sporadic at best, and when you consider most concerts end at 10:00 pm or later, given the train schedule, many might not get home until 1:00-2:00 AM if they didn’t make the train.
        Housing costs in New York are among the highest in the nation, even on a Philharmonic base salary, it is necessary in some cases to live in the further flung suburbs to find somewhat affordable housing if you have a family and you don’t want to live in a sardine can.

        I should add that audience access is an issue as well. Many concert goers in New York drive in from the suburbs to attend concerts. The added cost and inconvenience of getting to Carnegie Hall would not be an insignificant consideration for audience attendance numbers and development.

    • V. Lind says:

      “The superior acoustics of Carnegie are not enough to counterbalance the inconveniences and considerable added expense they would face working there everyday.”

      Hmm. Civil servant, are you?

      • Bill says:

        No, I’m a professional musician. In fact, I play with an orchestra that has made a decision not unlike the Philharmonic, albeit on a different scale.
        There are two performance venues in our community. One of them is without a doubt superior in terms of acoustics and comfort. But we opt to play in the venue that is older and not quite as good acoustically, but still good enough, because it is located in a more accessible area for both the musicians and patrons alike. Believe it or not, we musicians have lives and families outside of our profession, and we balance our quality of life decisions just like that civil servant at the motor vehicle office.

    • MacroV says:

      It’s a very good point. Even by subway, Carnegie isn’t particularly convenient; a lot of lines don’t stop close to it, so in many cases there are multi-block walks; not so bad for a young, ambulatory person but probably a hassle for a Philharmonic player playing 3-4 nights a week there.

    • Simon Funnell says:

      Perhaps they could use public transport. There is a good train service to New Jersey for example. I use it whenever I am visiting my NJ friends. Better for the planet too.

      • Bill says:

        As I pointed put, late night service on NJT is sporadic to almost non-existent. Let’s say your concert ends after 10:00PM, you then have to get to Penn station, which is not served by the subway line right at the hall, so that means a 10-15 minute walk to Columbus Circle. Then if you get to Penn Station and just miss the train, you could wait at least an hour until the next one. Carnegie is simply not as convenient as Lincoln Center, both for mass transit or cars.

    • Debbie says:

      Actually the deal broke in the paper before it was completed. There is a lot of parking around Carnegie, about the same cost at Lincoln Center but the musicians have subsidized parking at LC. Anything below 96th Street is in the Congestion pricing Zone, so both LC and Carnegie have the same surcharge for cars. Proximity to Juilliard is an issue but the subway ride to MSM and for that matter Mannes is negligibly longer.

  • Larry says:

    Any mention of whether the administrative staff will be able to work in the hall when the construction is going on?

  • Karl says:

    Maybe they can move Carnegie Hall over to Lincoln Center.

  • Jasper says:

    In 2003, when the idea was floated to have Carnegie Hall serve as the future home of the NY Phil, the estate of Avery Fisher threatened a lawsuit to prevent such a move. It was claimed that the naming-gift that changed the hall’s name (previously Philharmonic Hall) required the NY Phil to occupy that concert space in perpetuity, and that the hall forever be named for Avery Fisher.

    The Fisher family later relented (at the time of David Geffen’s $100 million gift), in part due to a payment of $15 million.


  • Martinu says:

    Talking of going permanently to Carnegie hall is nonsense. NYC needs 2 big concert halls. CH is booked every day, and philharmonic hall is also full, NYPO and visiting orchestras. A major overhaul is needed, and lowering number of seats is a good idea. Israel PO had a tough time during the overhaul some years ago, but the results justify it. Go on, do the changes.

  • Bruce says:

    “The risk is, the players may get so nostalgic for Carnegie love they won’t want to go back home.”

    Hahahahaha. Nobody cares what the musicians want.

  • Paul Wells says:

    Just a note. A few people have remarked that the refurbished hall won’t have an organ. I just learned that it used to, until the 1970s. https://www.nytimes.com/1975/12/12/archives/fisher-hall-eliminating-its-pipe-organ.html

  • MacroV says:

    I look at the time the Philharmonic can’t play in Geffen as an opportunity, and I’m kind of sorry Alan Gilbert didn’t stay around for it because, whatever one thinks of him as an interpreter, he’s pretty creative on concert formats and programming.

    I’d like to see the Philharmonic do residencies at BAM, City Center, cross the river to Newark, do some semi-staged opera, play some more at the Armory – just shake up the traditional subscription format for a year, and let the musicians exercise different muscles.

  • debuschubertussy says:

    I say just use that money to move the NY Phil into Brooklyn or Queens, into a new home. More space, cheaper real estate, and that’s where most real New Yorkers live anyway.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Leopold Stokowski was invited to conduct an orchestra in a “test run” of the hall before its official opening.
    He called for the Eroica.
    He played the opening chords – only the two opening chords – and stopped conducting.
    He turned around and announced to the people sitting in the hall: “Tear it down and start all over again!”
    Then he left.
    Enough said.

    • ML says:

      The version I read was: Stoki walked to center stage, clapped a few, and said: “Gentlemen, you invited me too late.”

      • John Kelly says:

        He walked into the RFH after it was built, took one look and said “what a pity.” Bud Herseth said Stokowski had some of the best ears he ever encountered (and he wasn’t much for complimenting conductors…………..)

  • Patrick says:

    Sometimes I think the problem is the NYPhil’s sound itself, not the hall. The orchestra leans toward cold and hard. Sure the hall doesn’t help, but I’ve never associated the Philharmonic with a beautiful sound or ranked it, artistically speaking, among the world’s better orchestras.

    • BrianB says:

      Existing broadcasts from the 30s through the 50s from Carnegie, and under a variety of conductors, tell a different story.

  • BrianB says:

    They should have listened to George Szell. It took him only a few bars, while rehearsing his visiting Cleveland Orchestra in the Brahms First, in 1962 to hear the debacle they had wrought. He turned around from the podium to face the bigwigs and remarked “Tear it down and start over.”