New York Philharmonic

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

New York Philharmonic

New York Philharmonic, dating from 1842, the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States. The orchestra as it now exists is the result of the merger of the Philharmonic Society of New York with the National Symphony Orchestra (1921), the City Symphony (1923), and finally the Symphony Society of New York (1928). Since the 1928 merger, the orchestra officially has been called the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York, Inc., although it is commonly referred to as simply the New York Philharmonic.

The original Philharmonic Society was established in 1842 and gave its first concert that year. Ureli Corelli Hill, its first president, was also its first conductor (1842–47) and a violinist. The first permanent conductor, Carl Bergmann, was appointed in 1865 and remained until 1876. Other important conductors have included Leopold Damrosch (1876–77), Theodore Thomas (1877–78; 1879–91), Anton Seidl (1891–98), Walter Damrosch (1902–3), Gustav Mahler (1909–11), and Josef Stransky (1911–23). The 1921 merger with the National Symphony Orchestra brought to the Philharmonic its conductor, J. W. Mengelberg, who remained with the orchestra until 1929. After engagements as guest conductor, Wilhelm Furtwängler was appointed (1925) permanent conductor. Arturo Toscanini was his successor (1928–36).

The Symphony Society of New York—the other component of the Philharmonic's 1928 merger—was founded by Leopold Damrosch in 1878 and conducted by him until 1885. His son Walter, who succeeded him, pioneered the performance of new works and brought symphonic music to many American communities for the first time. In 1920 this orchestra toured Europe, the first American group to do so.

After the 1928 merger Toscanini conducted until he was succeeded by John Barbirolli (1937–43), Artur Rodzinsky (1943–47), Bruno Walter (1947–49), Leopold Stokowski (1949–50), and Dmitri Mitropoulos (1949–58). Leonard Bernstein became musical director in 1958, retiring in 1969. He was succeeded by Pierre Boulez in 1971, who was, in turn, succeeded by Zubin Mehta (1978–91), Kurt Masur (1991–2002), Lorin Maazel (2002–9), and Alan Gilbert (2009–).

The New York Philharmonic plays summer concerts of a more popular nature in New York City's parks. It has made many recordings and toured in many parts of the world. In 1962 the orchestra moved into Philharmonic Hall, now Avery Fisher Hall, at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and it now plays some 200 concerts each year.

See H. Shanet, Philharmonia: A History of New York's Orchestra (1974).

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