The New York Philharmonic, founded in 1842 by a group of local musicians led by American-born Ureli Corelli Hill, is by far the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States—and one of the oldest in the world—playing a leading role in American musical life and development. Currently, the orchestra plays some 180 concerts a year, most of them in Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, during the 35 weeks of its subscription season.
Since its inception it has championed the new music of its time, giving the first performances of many important works such as Dvorák’s Symphony No. 9, From the New World; Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3; Gershwin’s Concerto in F; and Copland’s Connotations, in addition to the U.S. premieres of works such as Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 8 and 9, and Brahms’s Symphony No. 4. This pioneering tradition continues today with works of major contemporary composers regularly scheduled each season.
The roster of composers and conductors who have led the orchestra includes historic figures such as Theodore Thomas, Tchaikovsky, Dvorák, Mahler (Music Director, 1909-11), Klemperer, Richard Strauss, Mengelberg (Music Director, 1922-30), Furtwängler, Toscanini (Music Director, 1928-36), Stravinsky, Koussevitzky, Copland, Walter (Music Advisor, 1947-49), Mitropoulos (Music Director, 1949-58), Szell (Music Advisor, 1969-70), Tennstedt, and Leinsdorf.
In September 2009, native New Yorker Alan Gilbert was named Music Director, succeeding Lorin Maazel, who became Music Director in September 2002. Mr. Maazel succeeded Kurt Masur, who was Director from 1991 to 2002, and has subsequently been named Music Director Emeritus. Previous Music Directors have included Zubin Mehta (1978-91), and Pierre Boulez (1971-77). Leonard Bernstein, who was appointed Music Director in 1958, was given the lifetime title of Laureate Conductor in 1969.
The orchestra undertook its first domestic tour in 1882, under Leopold Damrosch. After its merger in 1928 with the Symphony Society of New York, the Philharmonic made its first European tour under Arturo Toscanini.
In 1922 the New York Philharmonic became one of the first orchestras to broadcast a live concert. Of the 2,000 record albums the orchestra has made since 1917, 500 are currently available. In 2003 the orchestra was honored by the Recording Academy in recognition of its contributions to the music industry and American culture.
After more than 70 years at Carnegie Hall, the Philharmonic moved in 1962 to Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center, later renamed Avery Fisher Hall in recognition of a major gift used to complete an acoustical redesign of the auditorium. In 1965 the orchestra launched its popular free annual Concerts in the Park.
The orchestra records frequently and has always been at the vanguard of musical promotion and education. In November 1996, the philharmonic became the first symphony orchestra to produce and release a recording—a digitally remastered CD of Leonard Bernstein's historic 1943 conducting debut—for exclusive distribution over the Internet. Its former conductors and music directors have included such musical luminaries as Gustav Mahler, Arturo Toscanini, Leonard Bernstein and Kurt Masur.
The New York Philharmonic provides events throughout the season designed to enhance the concert experience. To receive updates and invitations to the Philharmonic’s Adult Education programs, e-mail AdultEd@nyphil.org.
Young People's Concerts: This program introduces children ages 6 to 12 to the world of symphonic music through four performances each year. Each is preceded by Kidzone Live!, which consists of demonstrations and music-making activities and opportunities to meet members of the New York Philharmonic.
Very Young People’s Concerts: Families with children ages 3 to 6 are introduced to classical music through games, active listening, and hands-on music-making with Philharmonic Musicians.
Musical Encounters: In this interactive workshop for children grades 4 to 12, participants explore basic musical concepts and then attend a portion of a Philharmonic dress rehearsal.
School Partnership Program: An in-depth partnership with 15 New York City elementary schools, where 3rd to 5th graders follow a three-year curriculum including concerts in school and at Avery Fisher Hall.
Phil Teens: Open to young people ages 12 to 17, $12 tickets to select concerts, for both families and school groups.
School Day Concerts: Concerts for schools in and around New York City, supported by curricular materials and a teacher preparatory workshop.
Open Rehearsals: Dress rehearsals of the orchestra are open to the public, including school groups.