The New York Philharmonic

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Stories from the Digital Archives

Launched in February 2011, the New York Philharmonic Digital Archives has made available 1.3 million pages of archival treasures including printed programs, marked scores and parts, photographs, Board of Directors minutes, correspondence, financial records, and more. These collections have attracted a variety of researchers investigating topics unimaginable three years ago.

Digital Humanities - A New Use for Subscriber Records

Shamus Khan, a sociologist at Columbia University, is analyzing the orchestra's subscriber lists to create a database mapping New York's elites in the seats of the concert hall. He believes the records will offer snapshots of the city's evolving social life.

"What if we knew who'd gone to the Philharmonic over the last 150 years — where they sat, who sat around them, what concerts they went to — and we knew where they lived in the world?" Mr. Khan said. "We think that can tell us a lot."

Wall Street Journal, January 27, 2013

Bernstein's Interpretations in Stravinsky's Rite of Spring

From Charles Slater at J.W. Pepper & Son, Inc.:

"In Leonard Bernstein's 1958 recording of Rite of Spring with the New York Philharmonic, he plays the last two measures differently than in any other performance I have heard, and differently than what is in the score. I am accustomed to hearing a brief scale in the flutes, a pause of about three beats, then the final note in two parts — first an arpeggio, almost a grace note, by piccolo, flute, and upper strings, then the final crashing chord by timpani, percussion, and horns and lower strings. In Mr. Bernstein's recorded performance, that arpeggio by flutes and strings is not played; there is only the final chord, with a cymbal crash that isn't in the published score.  

There are three digitized scores of the rite marked by Mr. Bernstein. In one, it looks like there is an indication of cymbal, handwritten in light blue pencil, but nothing about omitting the penultimate arpeggiated chord."

At Harvard

"Carol Oja, a musicologist at Harvard University, directs the students in her freshman seminar on Leonard Bernstein to explore the Philharmonic's archives. And she has used them in her own research on the racial desegregation of classical music performance, searching concert programs from the 1940s and '50s to find African-American soloists, the repertoire they were hired to perform and the white musicians they played alongside."

— Wall Street Journal, January 27, 2013

Our Friends in Japan

Sarasate magazine — the Japanese equivalent to The Strad — runs a feature on a Bernstein score in each of its issues. Recent articles have focused on Mahler’s 6th Symphony, Debussy’s Rondes de printemps and Pelléas et Mélisande, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.

Cold War History

Jonathan Rosenberg, professor of history at Hunter College has been exploring the impact of the Philharmonic's 1959 tour to the Soviet Union on Cold War relations. The IBM RAMAC 305 was on display in the American Pavilion at the International Trade Fair in Moscow, where Leonard Bernstein was also featured. Below is the machine's Russian answer to a question about American symphony orchestras.


A Xenakis Dissertation

Charles Turner at CUNY wrote: "Thanks very much for the publication of your materials relating to the 1964 Bernstein performance of Iannis Xenakis's Pithoprakta. I treat this at some length in my almost complete dissertation, "Xenakis in America," and the letters from Edward Downes, Carlos Moseley to Alan Rich, and a number of the evening's concert-goers are very interesting."

Carl Nielsen from Out of Town

"I am currently in the middle of the Third Symphony — and I have been able to incorporate Bernstein's score markings without taking the trip to New York City!! So Great!!!!!"

— Gary Baldwin, Carl Nielsen Society of America

Other Interests and Accolades:

From Daniel Wakin of The New York Times, February 21, 2013:

"Sheet music on music stands provide the road map for an orchestra’s performance, but scribbled annotations by the players impose a conductor’s ideas and serve as simple reminders to make an entrance or count correctly. Now, with more than half-million new digitized pages poured into the New York Philharmonic’s electronic archives, that world is open to inspection. It may prove interesting to concertgoers, and fascinating to musicians who may have to play those parts themselves." Read more...

From Jon Jacob of Thoroughly Good Blog:

"The New York Philharmonic Digital Archive may possibly be my most favourite thing in the world right now. Why?

The most obvious explanation is that it offers an online experience of something I longed doing when I was in my first job as an orchestral librarian in the mid-nineties. Back then, I’d sit at my desk and spend hours looking over old sets of orchestral manuscripts, almost drunk with pleasure at the thought of touching documents that had been used in performances long before I’d even been born. Transferring conductor’s markings from score to orchestral parts was the librarian’s equivalent of jostling with musical celebrities.

Nosing through the New York Phil’s free digital archive of their own orchestral and business library is the online equivalent of that heady mid-nineties experience."

From Harold House of Opus One Media:

"This is a wonderment for musicians - a gift from the gods. It may be hard to fathom but for a musician it is a wonderment and a gift. These are my books - my light reading so to speak and the Philharmonic has provided me with access to this world for the rest of my life."

Merrill Hatlen, Bloomington, Indiana:

"I stumbled upon your archives while working on a documentary on Walter Piston, so I’m especially delighted to see some of the programs that you’ve digitized. I would like to know if there’s any possibility of including some of these programs in my documentary, which is intended for educational use… congratulations on your wonderful digital archive, which will help preserve history for years to come. Thank you."

Ben Negley in California:

"I am a graduate student at the University of California, and I'm giving a seminar presentation on performance practice considerations in Bernstein's recordings of Mahler's Ninth. The marked score in your digital archives is an important resource in my research and I was writing to see if it would be okay for me to reproduce several screen shots from the score in my power point presentation."

From Barcelona:

"My name is Alicia Torra and I'm the pianist Alicia de Larrocha's daughter.
I want to congratulate you for this wonderful initiative."

Charles Slater at J.W. Pepper & Son, Inc.

"I showed a colleague here at Pepper the NYPO Archive site, and he came away goggle-eyed. it's not merely the plethora of material, but also the quality of the photography, allowing for continuing zooms in, and the quality of the indexing, allowing one to see, for example, who it is who marked up the score."
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