What next for the New York Philharmonic?

What next for the New York Philharmonic?


norman lebrecht

June 17, 2022

Deborah Borda will be an impossible act to follow.

Her impending departure is a major headache for New York’s musical planners.

Effective as her successor Gary Ginstling (pictured) has been at the National Symphony Orchestra, that’s a c.v. in DC where classical music comes somewhere around the level of street furniture in the battle for public attention. This is New York City, where the Philharmonic still counts for something – not least thanks to Borda’s efforts in her two spells as CEO.

Ginstling, before Washington, was CEO of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Before that, he was press flak in San Francisco. He will have to hit the Manhattan ground running – and fast.

Borda has left in place a brilliant new hall and much improved labour relations.

The big question is who comes in as music director. Ginstling has worked well in DC with the Italian Giandrea Noseda, who would now join a list of candidates that consists of a couple of Finns, no notable women or minorities and a longterm ban on Russians.

Borda’s close relationships with Gustavo Dudamel and Esa-Pekka Salonen will count for nothing in the new state of affairs. Nor is Berlin’s brilliant Kirill Petrenko likely to be tempted by a big Wall Street check.

The race is on for the New York podium and there are no front-runners.


  • Ludwig's Van says:

    Brilliant new hall??? Not so fast, folks! Let’s wait and see – remember, they got it wrong twice in the last 60 years…

    • mary says:

      Do they conduct actual, real life tests of acoustics at every stage from design to completion, modifying the design accordingly along the way, or is it still, let’s design it blind (or deaf as it were), finish the thing, and then on opening night, pray for the best, like the olden days of casting church bells (if it rings, it rings, if it cracks, it cracks)?

      I’m guessing at this stage, the philharmonic has already gone in there and played at least a symphony to see how it sounds, and Borda already has a good idea of what the final results are before decamping?

      • Dave T says:

        Not sure how a ‘real life test’ can be conducted during the design stage. But if there is a way, I’m sure they did it. That said, there is a chance to tweak once the space is actually completed, though it is limited.

      • Tamino says:

        In acoustical engineering all the modern tools are used of course. Computer simulations, ray tracing etc.
        But ironically it gave us halls like Hamburg that are simply bad. And all the acoustically famous venues were built without them, Vienna, Amsterdam etc.

        But “it’s the Indian, not the arrow”. It looks like it though, that nobody builds these silly circus arenas anymore with lots of audience behind the musicians, and that is a good trend.

        NY looks on paper like a reasonable design acoustically.
        But as always the devil is in the details, small angle differences of reflecting surfaces, used materials etc.

        Let’s hope Hamburg was the last hall from that misguided idea that visuals are more important than acoustics.

  • Harpist says:

    Petrenko seems quite happy with the BPO and they with him, so don’t hold your breath there…

  • tet says:

    Borda clearly sees no big breakthrough, no legacy making appointment, on the horizon on the conductor search front, otherwise she’d’ve waited.

    At minimum, she must’ve had conversations with Dudamel and Salonen.

    That explains a lot about why she persuaded Zweden to stay through 2023, to ensure continuity and give Ginstling some runway to take off from.

    Was the NY Philharmonic ever the top dog in New York or was it always the Met and Carnegie Hall?

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Correct. At least 3rd in the pecking order. Bless them though, they do try. The new hall will certainly elevate the Phil’s status, if only out of curiosity. I wish them luck.

    • Tamino says:

      „legacy making appointment“
      That’s revealing language. A misconception.
      Legacies are never made by appointment. They are made by continuous hard work and respect for the music, multiplied with the talent involved. And judged years later.
      Which chief conductor’s reign at the NYPhil is in retrospect considered a legacy? Nothing obvious pops up in my mind. Even Bernstein, who himself created a legacy, but not because of his connection with the NYPhil?
      It‘s a difficult orchestra, because they think higher of themselves in status, than their artistic quality actually is.

      • tet says:

        “It‘s a difficult orchestra” because it is a thankless job, even if the orchestra were more humble, because:

        1) the NY Times is not loyal, it has a department of not 1 but at least 3 know-it-all-holier-than-thou classical music critics who review the NY Phil and freely trash the NY Phil and its conductor in their reviews according to how they feel the NY Phil is living up to their personal visions of how the NY Phil ought to be run

        2) the audience is not loyal, they’ll jump on whatever the hottest thing is and abandon the NY Phil at the drop of a hat

        3) management is not loyal, they’ll jump ship to whatever greener pasture they see, and yes, that includes Borda, who left for LA, came back, is leaving right after the new hall opens…

    • DorothyT says:

      Nice guess: Borda “persuaded” van Zweden to stay until a new conductor was named? Salonen in the running? Hardly!

    • Jobim75 says:

      Getting Sweden on board was a major mistake…..he replaced Gilbert whose charisma wasn’t the strong point…

  • Sisko24 says:

    I think you’re being a bit premature in describing the renovated Geffen Hall as being ‘brilliant’. It may turn out to be that way, but it equally could turn out to be a disappointment and a very big and expensive disappointment.

  • drummerman says:

    Exactly why does this create “a major headache?” I ask as someone who worked in the classical music business in New York City for 20+ years.

  • Frequent traveller says:

    Music directorship of ny phil requires a unique character and set of capabilities on top of musical excellence and actually I think Noseda could be ideal on all fronts. He will be adored by patrons and sponsors and while I never thought of him in the context of ny phil this is a match from heaven.

  • Peter San Diego says:

    There is a year’s overlap of Ginstling with Borda, so that should provide the time he needs to come fully up to speed. As stated in the earlier post, the switch appear to have been very well planned.

  • NYMike says:

    I hope Karina Canellakis will be considered.

  • MikeK says:

    Sorry…Borda brilliant…’impossible act to follow’ ???!!!…three words: Jaap Van Zweden. This is the legacy of a ‘bean counter’, not a leader of vision. The CEO of the NYP qualifies as as transformative when he/she attracts a musical director for this extraordinary orchestra that is NOT an up-and-comer, or a ‘perfectly fine’ conductor, but an established superstar, a Top 5 In The World figure. This is what this orchestra, and the people of New York deserve, and have not had since the days of Bernstein. It’s way past time to do what it takes, and all other discussion is superfluous, and little more than ‘Brownian Motion’.

    • John says:

      Van Zweden was appointed prior to Borda.

    • Sidelius says:

      At no point in it’s long history has NY ever been even close to a top five orchestra in the world. It would not now be even top 20 in most opinions. Barely top 8 or 9 in the US. So why would they think they are entitled to a world beating God of the podium? Will just never happen. Be happy with who you can realistically get.

      • Barry Guerrero says:

        Sidelius, this is the second time you’ve used “it’s” instead of “its”. “It’s” is a contraction for “it is”. You’ll look more believable and erudite if you bother to make the distinction.

        • Sidelius says:

          It’s is possessive, as in the history that belongs to the NY Phil. It is not “it is”. The other “it’s” is also possessive. The challenges belonging to that leap. The usage is therefore correct. Sorry.

          • Dave T says:

            You would have been perfectly correct in the 18th century.

          • Sidelius says:

            Upon further review, it turns out I am mistaken. There is indeed a special rule for its and several other words. Just another random carveout to beware of. Never noticed. I’m sure I’m not alone.

          • Helen says:

            You’re not alone. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen the “grocer’s apostrophe”:

            “Apple’s £2.20/kg”

      • Robert Edwards says:

        Your claim that the NYP was not close to a top five. Who were the top 5? Are you completely unaware of the Bernstein years?

    • Hispa-vox says:

      The problem is the level of the orchestra, not the level of the conductors they had after Bernstein, because three great Ms (Mehta, Masur, Maazel), were music directors of the NYP and terrific conductors who did very fine conducting outside NYC.

    • Robert Edwards says:

      Uh… Bernstein was an up-and-comer. And he transformed that orchestra. He proved they could play anything and do it as the best in the world. Bernstein created the world’s first Mahler orchestra. And the best contemporary and avant garde performances. An established superstar has nowhere to go. An up-and-comer does.

  • PG Vienna says:

    There is no front runner as actually nobody is interest to be the chief conductor of the NY Phil. Average orchestra with big Manhattan egos flying around….

    • MacroV says:

      There are a lot of orchestras I like better, but don’t kind yourself: The NY Phil is an extraordinary orchestra.

  • Paul Wells says:

    Surely the new MD will be named during the year before Borda retires? My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that that appointment is cooked or nearly, and the plan is for Borda to hand off a new conductor and a newish hall to her successor?

  • Peter Feltham says:

    Classical music,where the cult of personality reigns supreme and a nice foreign name beats talent every time.

  • Philharmonica says:

    This post’s analysis at its conclusion is much ado about nothing. It’s very clear that she will oversee the final selection of the incoming music director; the new guy will be her tag-along intern until 1-1/2 years from now.

  • Paul Sekhri says:

    Trust me. It won’t. It will be amazing.

  • Angela says:

    Did you just compare a symphony orchestra to street furniture? Despicable.

  • Sidelius says:

    The simple fact that Ms. Borda has made Mr. Ginstling her carefully and painstakingly chosen successor should afford him the presumption of excellence, until he shows otherwise. Ms. Borda has a history of usually getting things right, and has no doubt had deep discussions with Mr. Ginstling before deciding. There were surely dozens of top level arts executives eager to make that leap, even with it’s challenges. If you trust her, you should give him full confidence. Also, DC is a respectable post, nothing to sneer at. Not a bad orchestra at all. As for a conductor, there are quite a few if they have an open mind. Famous doesn’t always mean better. (Don’t make me name names).

  • Tamino says:

    Noseda would be brilliant for the job, but the problem with that orchestra is, that they consider nobody worthy to lead them. It‘s a difficult orchestra to be MD of. Noseda is probably remaining a happier person in DC. Also Honeck in Pittsburgh. (which has grown remarkably artistically with Honeck)

  • Harold Sacks says:

    Does Noseda now join the field of possible NYPO Conductors?

  • Jasper says:

    Deborah Borda was responsible for putting Kurt Masur on the street when he wished to continue as Music Director. In so many words, her compared her to the Stasi.

  • Marshall Fuss says:

    Los Angeles breathes a sigh of relief. Hope it isn’t short-lived.

  • Alexander Platt says:

    Gary Ginstling is a world-class orchestral executive and this is a great choice all around. We should be so lucky if he can convince Noseda to follow him up the coast to New York.

    • tet says:

      Noseda is a Gergiev protégé.

      If appointed, Gergiev would be a regular guest in NY.

      No thanks.

      • Tamino says:

        Nonsense.Is that an attempt at character asassisantion?
        AFAIK Noseda took a master class with Gergiev in the early nineties and then asissted him a few times afterwards. No special association of the two is known lately.

  • innocent bystander says:

    I lived in NYC for over a decade, and I was always more excited to hear the visiting orchestras than the NY Phil. This includes the American orchestras–Chicago, Los Angeles, Philly, St. Louis, etc….Just saying.