New York Philharmonic Performance History Search

By Shaw, Misti | Notes, June 2010 | Go to article overview

New York Philharmonic Performance History Search


Shaw, Misti, Notes


New York Philharmonic Performance History Search. New York Philharmonic, 2009. http://history.nyphil.org (Accessed December 2009). [Requires a Web browser and an Internet connection].

Since the 1980s, the New York Philharmonic archivists and staff have been building and maintaining an internal database that documents the organization's more than 150 years of performances. The database also serves as an internal catalog of the orchestra library's staggering holdings of scores and parts. In 2009, the New York Philharmonic (NYP) delighted its concert-goers, reception historians, and others by making its archive available to the public. The Performance History Search database, representing the "largest single performance history in the world," is available freely as a Web site with no subscription or login required. Answers to questions were cheerfully provided by archives staff via e-mail and telephone in a timely fashion. Contact information is provided on the "About Search" page of the Web site.

The NYP Performance History Search provides information about each concert the orchestra has given since their very first performance on 7 December 1842. Those familiar with the ensemble's long history will note that details from the New York Symphony Society--which merged with the Philharmonic in 1928--are included in the database, along with information about the NYP's performances. The activities of various chamber ensembles composed of members of both the Symphony Society and the Philharmonic are also included in the database. The search function promises to deliver information "up to last night's concert," which has mostly proven to be the case. Search results provide users with specific information about each performance, including the date, the repertoire, soloists, conductors, durations, concert venue, and other information if it is available.

The Search homepage displays four tabs. The initial "About. Search" tab contains a detailed description of the three various search options--by Composer/Work, by Artist, or by Program--that arc also represented by tabs. When using the Composer/ Work option, one is faced with two boxes: one for Composer, and one for Work. For example, if one wished to see how many-times the NYP has performed Debussy's La mer, one would input "Debussy" and "La Mer" in the respective boxes. The search yields 109 instances in which the work has been performed by the NYP, starting with the most recent date. One may click on a hyperlinked date to see information specific to the program for that performance, including the repertoire for the entire concert. However, if the Work box is left blank and only a composer's name is searched, the results shown include a list of all works by a composer that the NYP has performed. Thus, if one enters "Debussy" and leaves the Work box blank, what results is a list of sixty-seven Debussy compositions--arranged alphabetically by title--that the NYP has performed.

Navigating lists of results becomes a little trickier when searching for works that exist in different arrangements, editions, and versions. For example, a search combining "Stravinsky" and "Firebird" does not immediately yield a chronological list of dates on which the work was performed. Instead, a list of several different versions appears that includes the ballet whole, followed by versions of the suite written in 1911, the 1919, and 1945. One must first click on the desired version in order to receive a list of performances, with the most recent date performed appearing first.

Searching by work format is also complicated. If one performs a Composer/Work search for "Mozart" and "Violin Concerto," "Violin Concertos," or "Concertos, Violin," there are zero results. One does get results if one searches for "Concerto, Violin." The NYP archives staff members recommend that users who wish to locate instrumental concerti should input the instrument in the Work box, and "whittle down" from there. …

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