NY’s new hall will open two years early and at half price

NY’s new hall will open two years early and at half price


norman lebrecht

March 09, 2022

The New York Philharmonic confirmed today that, as I reported a couple of weeks back, David Geffen Hall will open in October 22 instead of the projected 2024 and at a cost of $550 million instead of $1 billion – all of which has been covered by donations.

‘Together we have created a home for an orchestra of the 21st century, which requires not only true versatility but the creation of new public spaces that invite in all New Yorkers,’ said NY Phil prez Deborah Borda.

She has also flung down a gauntlet to Carnegie Hall that it will have to up its game.

The whole frontage has been opened out ‘so that it no longer feels like a fortress’.

Unfortunately, pictures of the public spaces have so far only been made available to the parish news sheet.


  • Mark says:

    I dont get the carnegie hall reference

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      I think it’s probably due to the fact that Carnegie looks – and often – feels like a medieval fortress and has only dank, dim, cramped nooks and crannies in which to hover during intermissions.

      • Monsoon says:

        Lobby space is a waste of space — it’s only briefly used during concerts. And the NYP has long struggled finding uses for the ample lobby space at its Lincoln Center concert hall — many restaurants have come and gone from the lobby area.

      • Paul Easy says:

        Quite wrong, it is an elegant Victorian style building, with many windows, full of inspiration and legend, with a gorgeous Beaux-Arts interior. I never experienced it to be dank at all. Yes, there are intimate spaces around the box seats, which is to be expected.

    • Bill says:

      I think it’s a reference to Carnegie Hall’s long standing superior acoustics. Maybe they finally got it right this time.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      One assumes competition for presentations and rentals…a more accommodating and welcoming hall with possibly good acoustics. There is demand for both in Manhattan.

    • Estelle says:

      There is a belief that Carnegie Hall is “it.” The absolute best. Acoustics may be one thing, but programming is important, too. And CH has been slow to being in the new century.

      • Larry W says:

        Sorry, but you are slow to get up to date. Last week at Carnegie Hall the 2021–2022 season continued with performances by the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Norm Lewis and The New York Pops, Chimurenga Renaissance, and Fatoumata Diawara. To name a few.

  • PGHK says:

    May be the Noo Beginning for the Noo Yoke Philharmonic!

  • John Borstlap says:

    That is an incredible achievement….. and cudos for all of those people who invested in the project. Compare that with new halls being planned in Europe with state money which go over budgets and produce monstruosities.

    • JB says:

      $550M for a renovation is not cheap. Gasteig gets a makover for 450M€. Philharmonie de Paris with top-notch acoustics was 400M€.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        In a city like NY with questionable union practices in major construction (I didn’t say mob…) it is a true achievement. Bravo Ms. Borda (with whom I would never try to tangle…)

  • waw says:

    Pictures are available in all of the architectural trade rags:


  • EG says:

    In the last few years, there have been consistent references in various publications that the cost would be $550m, so not at all sure how and where you have the estimated cost at $1b.

  • Kyle Wiedmeyer says:

    I understand that this is NYC and all but $550 million? For renovation? And that’s half the original projected tag? It cost that much to renovate and update Wrigley Field in Chicago, a 41,000-seat baseball stadium, and Chicago is relatively inexpensive compared to NYC. It cost that much to build the brand spanking new, 17,500-seat Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, and ~$100 million to renovate a 90-year-old movie palace into the Milwaukee Symphony‘s new concert hall.

    • MWnyc says:

      Not your standard renovation. It was ripping out almost the entire interior and replacing it — using high-quality materials that will, one hopes, finally give the hall good acoustics — while taking care not to damage or alter the facade, which is landmarked.

      That said, yes, construction costs in New York City are higher than they ought to be.

  • James Weiss says:

    But will there be a much needed pipe organ?

    • MWnyc says:

      Not yet. If nothing else, it would take too long to install, and they want to open again as soon as possible.

    • Sisko24 says:

      From what has and hasn’t been written on this topic, there is no indication that a pipe organ will be included with this renovation. The one big hope is that there is room for such an instrument available on, around and behind the stage so that at some time in the future, a pipe organ may be included. But for the immediate future, there won’t be which I believe to be a missed opportunity.

  • MacroV says:

    It does look good, but $550 million and no organ?

    And where do you get the $1 billion benchmark? It has always been estimated to cost about $500 million.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Since Carnegie Hall has been around 1891 and has had no problem getting orchestras to come play within its confines, I’m not sure what ‘flinging down a gauntlet’ means in this context. Cheaper tickets?

  • Paul Wells says:

    The predictably petty reference to the New York Times ignores the fact that at least the Times runs photos larger than a postage stamp and has figured out the technology involved in permitting viewers to see them in enlarged format. I suspect you could hire a student to do the same for you for $30.

  • Ludwig's Van says:

    Let’s not count the chickens until we’ve heard the results. Remember, they got the acoustics desperately wrong twice!

    • Paul Easy says:

      I listened and performed there in the 1980s and for a contemporary hall, the acoustics were fine. Not great, but fine. It is okay to want better, but lets be honest about it. It’s only an issue because of lame critics at the New York Times.

      • Sisko24 says:

        Thank you for your comment. At a concert at ‘Avery Fisher Hall’ about ten years ago or so, I sat next to someone who said she’d been to several European concert halls, and she said AFH(Geffen Hall) was better than most of them.

        They were on the right track as far as acoustics are concerned when they made Mr. Masur’s renovations. But he never got everything he wanted in that regard which would’ve included a pipe organ whose undulating and uneven pipes and windchests on the rear wall would’ve broken up and reduced the harshness of the acoustic and also could have helped with sound projection on stage and into the audience. I remember him being quoted as saying that he was opposed by unnamed others who didn’t want a pipe organ in AFH until the orchestra went on tour in Japan and heard the NYPhil with a pipe organ and they then became converts. But by that time, he was on his way out of the music director’s position which was widely seen as him having been ‘fired’. Whatever the case may be in all that, when the Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ was removed from AFH just before that 1970s renovation, it was made clear another pipe organ could be installed at some point in the future. Of course nothing was ever done about having a new pipe organ included.

      • NYMike says:

        As someone who played there when it first opened and heard many concerts there after I retired, I beg to differ. Subsequent renovations provided fuller frequency response but never warmth. So, never fine. I’ve played and heard concerts in Boston’s Symphony Hall and heard concerts in Amsterdam, Vienna, and Buenos Aires – all halls with recognized superior acoustics. Geffen has been mediocre in comparison.

  • fflambeau says:

    Carnegie Hall has an appeal that does not wane, as Isaac Stern well knew.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    The hall looks gorgeous. If the sound matches the looks, New York will have two first class full size halls. How many cities can claim that?

    • Paul Easy says:

      I don’t know if they can be considered first-class, but Minneapolis has Orchestra Hall and several restored theaters, and St. Paul has its Ordway Center and several smaller halls. But then, there are also two professional orchestras. New York has ONE full-time orchestra, like Chicago.

      • Nydo says:

        New York also has a full time opera, and two half time ballet orchestras. Minneapolis/St. Paul is a very arts oriented city, but in the end we have to consider scale and level of activity.

  • But does it sound better?

  • Paul Easy says:

    I am not surprised to hear such garbage from Borda. As for the new configuration of the hall, it looks somewhat disastrous to me. I predict that it will be swimming in reverberation with little clarity or balance. Not having a back wall to the stage is a huge mistake. Having to look at other listeners while listening is a terrible thing. It has to be a terrible distraction for the conductor, and added stress for the musicians. People’s ideas of great acoustics are too much affected by listening to studio recordings which are manipulated by the non-musical sound engineers, which usually have too much reverberation or too little, and microphones far too close to the instruments. Digital mics are terrible for classical music. So designing a hall to mimic that is a disaster, like Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. The sound there is so wet, you need an umbrella. Notes just hang in the area in a most unnatural fashion, and brass and percussion notes bounce off the walls. There is no balance. The plush Academy of Music in Philadelphia, on the other hand, absorbs so much excess sound, that the balance of parts within the orchestra was perfect. You could hear every detail, the brass and percussion were unable to drown anyone out, and as a result, the audience was very still and quiet, and listened intently. But those days, those listeners are gone, as the orchestra, despite promises to play in the Academy, only plays in the casual, mediocre Kimmel Center. They lost about 20% of their audience, so they just removed more seating to make it seem full.

    • The hall in Minneapolis is certainly not a “disaster” and having been built in the early 1970s, years before any digital recording had even been made in US, was certainly not designed to mimic “digital mics”.

    • Larry W says:

      This comment is showered with so many compliments I need an umbrella.

    • just saying says:

      Guess you’ve never been to Berlin or Los Angeles, both of which have seating behind the orchestra. It’s a fantastic experience to hear/watch a concert from there.

    • Nydo says:

      ” swimming in reverberation with little clarity or balance”. Would that be your description of the Concertgebouw as well? One can also sit behind the orchestra there when there isn’t a choir. What of Symphony Hall in Boston? Too much reverb for your tastes? The Academy of Music always impressed me as being much too dry; sure, you could hear detail, but every ounce of warmth had to be overcreated by the orchestra itself, without any help from the hall. My understanding is that it was better before the organ was installed, when the architecture changes that were put in place to support the weight of the organ filled the chamber underneath the stage that created resonance, much as the renovation of Carnegie Hall did until they discovered what had happened in the mid 1990’s, and corrected it.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Such venom for Ms. Borda…did she fire you at some point?

  • Jeff Muir says:

    Geffen Hall / Avery Fisher Hall has had excellent acoustics in most locations. You just need to know which dead spots to avoid, e.g. most second tier boxes, parts of mid orchestra, etc. Third Tier right boxes have had fantastic sound and are the cheapest seats. Sorry to see them go. As for other famous venues, none is perfect. The Concertgebouw has some awful sounding locations as does the Berliner Philharmonie. Even Carnegie Hall has its dead spots especially with solo vocalists with orchestra. Ironically the two alternative spaces that the NY Philharmonic has been using during renovations (Rose Theater and Alice Tully Hall) both have superb acoustics in just about every location. Unfortunately the prices for seats are out of reach for many music lovers.

  • just saying says:

    It looks like the entire interior was copied off of Walt Disney Hall in LA