Founded in 1842 by a group of local musicians led by American-born Ureli Corelli Hill, the New York Philharmonic is by far the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States, and one of the oldest in the world. It currently plays some 180 concerts a year, and on May 5, 2010, gave its 15,000th concert — a milestone unmatched by any other symphony orchestra.
American-born Ureli Corelli Hill, founder and first Conductor of the New York Philharmonic
Alan Gilbert began his tenure as Music Director in September 2009, the latest in a distinguished line of musical giants that has included Lorin Maazel (2002–09); Kurt Masur (Music Director 1991–2002; Music Director Emeritus since 2002); Zubin Mehta (1978–91); Pierre Boulez (1971–77); and Leonard Bernstein (appointed Music Director in 1958; given the lifetime title of Laureate Conductor in 1969).
Since its inception the Orchestra has championed the new music of its time, commissioning or premiering many important works, such as Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, From the New World; Rachmaninoff’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 has continued to the present day, with works of major contemporary composers regularly scheduled each season, including John Adams’s Pulitzer Prize– and Grammy Award–winning On the Transmigration of Souls; Christopher Rouse's Prospero's Rooms; Melinda Wagner’s Trombone Concerto; Wynton Marsalis’s Swing Symphony (Symphony No. 3); John Corigliano’s One Sweet Morning, for mezzo-soprano and orchestra; Magnus Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No. 2; and, by the end of the 2012–13 season, 22 works in CONTACT!, the new-music series.
The roster of composers and conductors who have led the Philharmonic includes such historic figures as Theodore Thomas, Antonín Dvořák, Gustav Mahler (Music Director, 1909–11), Otto Klemperer, Richard Strauss, Willem Mengelberg (Music Director, 1922–30), Wilhelm Furtwängler, Arturo Toscanini (Music Director, 1928–36), Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, Bruno Walter (Music Advisor, 1947–49), Dimitri Mitropoulos (Music Director, 1949–58), Klaus Tennstedt, George Szell (Music Advisor, 1969–70), and Erich Leinsdorf.
New Yorkers lining up to take advantage of the Orchestra’s first free dress rehearsal (2007), made possible in partnership with Credit Suisse, the Orchestra’s Global Sponsor
Long a leader in American musical life, the Philharmonic has become renowned around the globe, having appeared in 432 cities in 63 countries on five continents. In October 2009 the Orchestra, led by Music Director Alan Gilbert, made its debut in Hanoi, Vietnam, in the Hanoi Opera House. In February 2008 the musicians, led by then-Music Director Lorin Maazel, gave a historic performance in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — the first visit there by an American orchestra and an event that was watched around the world, and for which the Philharmonic received the 2008 Common Ground Award for Cultural Diplomacy. Other historic tours have included the 1930 Tour to Europe, the first European tour with Toscanini; the first tour of South America and Latin America, in 1958; the first tour to the U.S.S.R., in 1959; the 1984 Asia Tour, including the first tour of India; the 1998 Asia Tour, with the first performances in mainland China; and the 75th Anniversary European Tour in 2005 with Lorin Maazel. In 2012 the Orchestra became an International Associate of London’s Barbican, with an extended residency comprising four concerts, including a London edition of the Young People’s Concerts. Alan Gilbert led the Orchestra in debut performances in Hanoi and Abu Dhabi in 2009, and in 2013 he conducted the Orchestra in The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence Christopher Rouse's Prospero's Rooms and former Composer-in-Residence Magnus Lindberg's Kraft at Dresden's Volkswagen Transparent Factory. Highlights of the ASIA / WINTER 2014 tour include Rouse's Rapture, The Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence Yefim Bronfman reprising Lindberg's Piano Concerto No. 2, and Alan Gilbert narrating Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra in Japanese.
The Orchestra has built on its long-running Young People’s Concerts, which began in 1924, to develop a wide range of education programs. In the 2005–06 season the Orchestra introduced Very Young People’s Concerts, for preschoolers. Beyond the stage, other education initiatives include the School Partnership Program, which enriches music education in New York City; Very Young Composers, which enables students to express themselves through original works, often performed by Philharmonic musicians; Learning Overtures, which fosters international exchange among educators and has already reached as far as Japan, South Korea, Venezuela, Finland, and England; and online resources to be used in homes and classrooms around the world.
The New York Philharmonic, a longtime media pioneer, began radio broadcasts in 1922 and is currently represented by The New York Philharmonic This Week — syndicated nationally 52 weeks per year and available on nyphil.org. On television, in the 1950s and ’60s, the Orchestra inspired a generation through Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts on CBS. Its television presence has continued with annual appearances on Live From Lincoln Center on PBS, and in 2003 it made history as the first orchestra ever to perform live on the Grammy awards, one of the most-watched television events worldwide. Since 1917 the Philharmonic has made almost 2,000 recordings, with more than 500 currently available. In 2004 the New York Philharmonic was the first major American orchestra to offer downloadable concerts, recorded live. Following on this innovation, in 2009 the Orchestra announced the first-ever subscription download series: Alan Gilbert: The Inaugural Season, available exclusively on iTunes, produced and distributed by the New York Philharmonic, and comprising more than 50 works performed during the 2009–10 season. The Philharmonic’s self-produced recordings continue with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic: 2013–14 Season.
On June 4, 2007, the New York Philharmonic proudly announced a new partnership with Credit Suisse, its first-ever and exclusive Global Sponsor, an unprecedented cultural partnership that continues to this day.