Breaking: New York Philharmonic calls off concerts until summer 2021

Breaking: New York Philharmonic calls off concerts until summer 2021


norman lebrecht

October 13, 2020

The orchestra has scrapped the rest of its 20-21 season, as Covid rages on.

President and CEO Deborah Borda said: ‘The cancellation of an entire New York Philharmonic season is not only unprecedented — it is devastating, both in its impact on the morale of musicians and audiences, and in its profound economic consequences. We know there was no other choice, but we also know that music is most meaningful when shared with listeners in a common space. We are bolstered by the enthusiastic reaction from New Yorkers to our recent NY Phil Bandwagon concerts and are gratified by private financial support that continues to come in. Most importantly, the Philharmonic is resolved to continue to connect and perform during this time, and beyond. This will not be a silent season, and we eagerly anticipate September 2021, when the entire Orchestra can reunite with our audience. We cannot wait for that first downbeat!’

The Philharmonic will continue to offer free digital content. Activities include pre-recorded performances by small, socially distanced ensembles of Philharmonic musicians in partner venues such as Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center and Manhattan School of Music.



  • Darrell says:

    The news is actually positive because this will allow other orchestras to move forward, which will also be able to hire NYP musicians and in the end we will have orchestras, which is the important thing, but well managed without nonsense like this. They can cancel seasons to eternity and let Natural Selection do the rest.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      One of the most humorous replies I’ve read in ages. Best of luck to your other orchestras. We New Yorkers are fortunate to have a manager with the experience and judgement of Deborah Borda. It takes a tough executive to make tough decisions.

      As with the Met Opera, New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Broadway theaters, and numerous other organizations, the arts and entertainment in New York City will return, responsibly.

      • Darrell says:

        If a symphonic orchestra -in the 21st century- does not know how to make its business profitable beyond the concert hall, it has no future (neither has it nor deserves it), with or without viruses.

        New orchestras will come that will show the way (to the exit) to those that inevitably insist on formats from past centuries.

        NYP is not going to last forever (and that may be good news.)

  • Save the Met says:

    Based on New York City indoor social distancing rules the butts in seats allowed would not pay to turn on the lights of Geffen Hall. They are performing outdoors in small groups all over the city. Follow them on Instagram where they put up clips of their performances.

    • Darrell says:

      The management of an orchestra like the NYP should have had some contingency plan to carry out a season (at least one, I am not asking for two) in the current circumstances. It would be nice to know what they have been managing in recent years on budget matters.

      • V. Lind says:

        What are you talking about? Nobody saw this coming. What do you mean by “the NYP should have had some contingency plan to carry out a season”? They plan to continue several schemes according to Ms. Borda’s statement above.

        • Darrell says:

          Any business, even more so of a certain size, must have a contingency plan for what may happen. A contingency plan is what allows a business to continue operating when adverse situations arise. NYP, as such, has closed.

          They neither have a contingency plan nor do they have a business plan for the future in general terms, they are in another century (like most of the orchestras with a remarkable history that are still out there.) That is what I am talking about.

          As for Borda’s statements… Well, typical management statements. The NYP has closed for what I have already pointed out.

          I suspect that of all the NYP employees, with or without contingency or future plan, Borda is going to certainly do well, better than anyone else.

      • Bill says:

        You can have all of the contingency plans you want, but if your government is being run by a bloated buffoon with bad hair who encourages people to disregard basic common sense and safety precautions all while bankrupting the Arts in favor of tax giveaways to the wealthy and corporations, there’s not much you can do. Fortunately, said buffoon is about to be sent packing.

        • Darrell says:

          Let’s not forget that it was Trump who signed a $25 Million bailout for the Kennedy Center, even against the opinion of some party members and others who felt that it was not time for the arts, but to help only those who lost their jobs or businesses that were closing. Whatever he does, he is always criticized.

          And to be fair, the feud between Blasio and Cuomo also has a responsibility in the current situation.

          • Bill says:

            So let me get this straight, bailing out airlines=good, bailing out arts organizations=bad. Why are some jobs and industries worth “socialist” bail outs while others aren’t? Shouldn’t the captains of industry in the airline business have planned for a pandemic? How about the local tavern? What’s their excuse? Why is it only orchestras were required to plan for this situation?
            Riddle me this, if you really seem to have such antagonism for the arts, why are you wasting your time on an arts website? Shouldn’t you over at the Federalist ranting on about Ayn Rand or something?

          • Darrell says:

            Excuse me, I totally agree with Trump (or whoever) bailing out the Kennedy Center ($25 M) or the Smithsonian Institution ($7.5 M) and I wish he hadn’t done the same with the airlines ($25 B).

            (Let me say that I am not very much in favor of funding composers with public money because they always end up creating fanatically atonal music. I suppose it is the consequence of not needing an audience. Although this is another debate.)

            As for Borda, $2 M / year (?), for that salary I expected her to be able to do more than close the business and pay the musicians two-thirds of the salary, does the same apply to her? In fact, we don’t even know how much she earns, although the figure indicated could be quite approximate, considering that in LAP she earned reportedly around $1.8 M.

          • Bill says:

            Ok, since you apparently seem to have all the answers, what would you have done?

            Let 2000 people into the hall and let ‘er rip? How’s that been working out in Europe? They’re right in the middle of a second wave and are shutting everything down again, including live music.

            YouTube? They’ve done that already. Everyone’s over that.

            Small outdoor concerts? They’ve been doing that, and It gets cold in NY in the winter if you haven’t noticed, so that ain’t gonna work for long.

            Small indoor concerts? By law you can’t do that in NY right now.

            Why don’t you get on The Rolling Stones case while you’re at it?
            They’re multi gazillionaires and they haven’t been able to come up with a plan to start performing live again either.

            If you know so much about managing an orchestra, why aren’t you doing it? Since you have all the answers, they should be knocking down the doors right now asking for your sage advice, am I right?

            Just another smug know-it-all on the internet commenting from the peanut gallery.

          • Darrell says:

            The symphony orchestra is like the typewriter, its time is over. And despite this, the public wants more music than ever. The problem is not the music, nor the coronavirus, nor the lockdown (for every city in lockdown there are dozens that are not and the musicians must travel), the problem is the format. People are asking for something different.

            Classical music can exist without the symphony orchestra, in fact, as we know it today, it made its appearance in the 19th century, by then there were already a thousand years of musical history in sheet music.

            The situation of the symphony orchestras has dragged on without a solution for too long, those who have visited SL for years are aware. When was the last time we read a piece of news here about the creation of a new symphony orchestra?

            I have no interest in managing one for the same reason that I am not interested in managing a CD’s and vinyl store.

            Since the disagreement on everything is absolute, it is impossible to move forward. In any case, society does move, and this has consequences. NYP musicians are not trapped in New York, they are trapped in an outdated format. And when the Coronavirus passes, it will remain the same.

          • William Safford says:

            I heard similar statements to yours forty years ago. Yet orchestras continue to survive, and, in many cases, thrive.

            There will be many changes post-COVID, just as there were after the 1919 flu pandemic and other similar events.

            Time will tell what happens with orchestras. Much will depend on the nature of the changes, including the availability and efficacy of a vaccine and a vaccination program or other effective treatment.

          • Bill says:

            You heard it here first folks: some guy named Darrell on the internet has proclaimed the symphony orchestra dead.

            So, by your logic, pretty much every other style of music is dead as well, since no other ensembles of any style are able to perform live either. Where were their backup plans?

  • Concertgoer says:

    “We know there was no other choice.”

    Really? We listeners don’t. What’s the reasoning? Aren’t we entitled to it?

    “Resolved to continue to connect and perform during this time, and beyond.”

    What does this mean? If she has no plan yet, why is she mouthing off?

    “We eagerly anticipate September 2021, when the entire orchestra can reunite with [its] audience.”

    She can’t make this promise!

    • Ken says:

      Um, she didn’t “promise” anything.

    • William Safford says:

      Your questions are answered in the NYPO statement/press release, which I received via email earlier today. If you’re not on the NYPO mailing list, I’m sure it would be easy to ask to be put on it. It’s also posted to the NYPO web site.

      (The wording of what I received differs a bit from what is posted above.)

      For example I received:

      “Due to mandatory state and city government health regulations, the Philharmonic will not be able to resume live, indoor concerts in January as originally hoped. With deep regret, all previously scheduled concerts from January 6 to June 13, 2021, must now be cancelled.”

      This is clear.

      I do agree with your last sentence. That said, the wording of what I received again differs from what is quoted above. I received: “Most importantly for our future, the NY Phil 2021–22 season will be announced in spring of 2021….We cannot wait to be reunited with you, our audience, and we look forward to sharing that magical moment when you hear the very first downbeat of a New York Philharmonic concert.” That sounds more aspirational than definitive, which is entirely appropriate under the circumstances.

  • Eli says:

    sad, but have respect that NYP are telling them all now so that they can find something else to do, rather than not knowing until later.

  • Jdawg says:

    What a shame. We see orchestras around the world playing concerts, and here in the states we couldn’t get people to follow the simplest of ways to reduce the numbers: wear a damn mask. Because of the selfishness of Trump and his followers, and now with the cold/flu season arriving and a likely second wave, more jobs will be lost, more orchestras will shut down, more small businesses will close forever. Wear a damn mask. Act like adults. JFC

  • Larry says:

    Have there been any announcements about the proposed renovation of Geffen Hall?

    • Sisko24 says:

      I hope that’s been put off indefinitely. This is not the time to be considering renovation when the very condition of the orchestra that would play there is in serious question. Let’s get the orchestra back and playing and then – maybe – think about renovation of Geffen Hall and this time, include a pipe organ in the plans.

      • William Safford says:

        It’s mentioned briefly in the press release. You can read it on the website.

        My fantasy: Geffen Hall should be demolished and rebuilt from the ground up. Now would be the perfect time to do it, if it could be done with proper COVID protocols.

        It won’t happen, of course. But will a renovation fix the inherent acoustical problems, or just put more lipstick on the pig?

      • NYMike says:

        There’s specific funding for Geffen Hall’s renovation that would not go to the musicians. The time to renovate is when the orchestra can’t play. A lot can be accomplished while Covid forces the orchestra to be absent.

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    If they’re getting paid, I hope that they really do some meaningful in terms of community outreach and dig deep within the five boroughs that are part of NYC (including Staten Island). It should involve teaching, Truck Concerts, and perhaps some small chamber orchestra concerts in venues that allow for streaming. But when both the MET and the NYPO fold their hands for the entire year, that really sends a shock wave through the US orchestra industry. Not sure that most orchestras will have the endowment to wait this out and remain relevant within the communities in which they operate.

  • Tamino says:

    why do they, like the MET, cancel so far in advance?
    In Germany and Austria the calendars are updated on short notice. Berlin Staatsoper yesterday announced their concert schedule for November.
    With the objective of realising as much as possible for the audience and protecting the livelihoods of the employees in the field, that seems more sensible, than cancelling whole seasons flat?

  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    If the people can’t come to the theatre let the artists go to the people in venues like shopping malls, abandoned warehouses, even the street under a tent.
    Cheer the people up and who knows, you might acquire a whole new set of fans.

  • Michael says:

    Not surprising in a risk-averse, litigious environment, but disappointing and shows a complete lack of imagination and
    serious leadership. This is a historic opportunity to make things work for the arts – musicians and public.

  • NYMike says:

    The violinist in the photo is Fiona Simon nee Vanderspar, whose two brothers are Covent Garden’s principal cellist and LSO’s co-principal violist. An NYP 1st violin section member, she’s also the orchestra committee’s long-time chair.

  • Mark Perlman says:

    All of you naysayers are being pretty cavalier about this cancellation. Orchestras only Europe are now seeing the need to cancel things now that the second wave of pandemic is upon them. The Concertgebouw just announced cancelling the next month, and it will likely be longer. Yes, the U.S. is doing worse than most other places due to the idiocy of the idiot-in-chief, but you can’t blame orchestras and other arts groups for that. I dearly want concerts to come back, but it is not worth getting people killed doing so.

  • Mick the Knife says:

    I’m buying tickets to support the digital efforts of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic. The NY Phil admins are a bunch of failures, doing nothing but giving up.

  • just saying says:

    I’m just curious, why can’t the NY Phil follow the lead of orchestras around the country who are able to have virtual seasons?

    • William Safford says:

      “Due to mandatory state and city government health regulations, the Philharmonic will not be able to resume live, indoor concerts in January as originally hoped. With deep regret, all previously scheduled concerts from January 6 to June 13, 2021, must now be cancelled.”

      From the NYPO press release.

      My guess is that they’re not permitted to rehearse or perform en masse, even virtually.

  • M2N2K says:

    Several of the commenters here don’t seem to realize that cancellation such as this one only means that the season AS IT WAS PLANNED will not happen, but that it doesn’t mean that no music will be played anywhere and that it certainly does not preclude an orchestra to, for example, announce in January what they will do in February.