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Learn about our updated health and safety guidelines, and read A Promise to Our Audience.

Saluting Four Marvelous Musicians

 The four New York Philharmonic musicians retiring in 2020: Assistant Principal Librarian Sandra Pearson, bassoon / contrabassoon Arlen Fast, horn player Howard Wall, and cellist Eric Bartlett 

Each spring the New York Philharmonic family — active and retired Musicians, Board Members, and Staff — gather at a concert and post-concert reception on the Grand Promenade to honor their colleagues who are retiring, who are invited to share their reflections with the audience.


We could not hold this year’s event at a live performance because of the cancellations of our spring concerts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but are committed to celebrating the four talented and dedicated musicians who are retiring. Here’s a taste of what appears in their individual Q & As and slideshows:


Before becoming Assistant Principal Librarian, the multifaceted Sandra Pearson received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in bassoon performance, and will next pursue studies in archives and records management.


Contrabassoonist / bassoonist Arlen Fast has spearheaded a long-overdue modernization of his deep-voiced instrument.


Horn player Howard Wall, who grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, got to watch the Philharmonic Young People’s Concerts on television when there wasn’t a Steelers game.


Cellist Eric Bartlett grew up in rural Vermont and was a busy freelancer before joining the Orchestra.


Learn more about the musicians you usually experience in our concerts by exploring their pages and checking out our social media channels this week.

Meet Sandra Pearson, Retiring New York Philharmonic Assistant Principal Librarian

Sandra Pearson’s career reflects her wide-ranging expertise. In addition to serving at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, she is the only person to have had the official title of Librarian for the Boston Pops. You may be surprised that she has worked with the likes of Cab Calloway, Conan O’Brien, and The Manhattan Transfer, and on the recording sessions for Saving Private Ryan.


But that’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what interests Sandy, a multifaceted musician and researcher who is retiring after serving as Assistant Principal Librarian of the New York Philharmonic for 21 years. Here's her Q & A, followed by the speech she would have given the night the Orchestra would have celebrated this years retirees.


Q: How were you introduced to music?


SP: I grew up in a house filled with music in Madison, Wisconsin. My mother was a pianist, organist, and singer; my father had played trombone in the high school dance band, my uncle was a bassoonist, and we kids took piano lessons. There was a decent phonograph record collection; one LP I loved so much that I wore it out was an introduction to the instruments of the orchestra, with musical examples. I also loved the record of Peter and the Wolf. My mother played the postludes in church and, in the evenings, cocktail piano, so I already I knew that you could do music for a living and that music was going to be part of my life.


Q: When did you decide to pursue music as a career?


Meet Howard Wall, Retiring New York Philharmonic Horn

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Howard Wall began playing the horn at age ten and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in music performance at Carnegie Mellon University. He made his Carnegie Hall debut at age 19 performing Schumann’s Konzertstück for Four Horns, the same work with which he made his Philharmonic debut in 1995; he has since reprised it with the Orchestra, both in New York and abroad. Howard is among the performers awarded Gold Medal and Top Honors at the 2018 Global Music Awards.


We usually honor our retiring musicians at a special concert and reception, but this year that isn’t possible. We therefore invite you to get to know Howard Wall as he retires as Philharmonic horn, The Ruth F. and Alan J. Broder Chair, after a 26-year tenure.  Though he is man of few words — the Gary Cooper of the French horn world — we managed to get him to open up a little about how he came to music and to reflect on his Philharmonic tenure. Here's his Q & A, followed by the speech the night the Orchestra would have celebrated this year’s retirees.


Q: How did you come to play the French horn?


HW: My older brother played the clarinet, so I wanted to play an instrument. When I decided to join the school music program it was in the middle of the school year, so when I asked to play the trumpet, the available instruments had been claimed and the teacher suggested horn. Read More...

Meet Eric Bartlett, Retiring New York Philharmonic Cello

Eric Bartlett came to the Philharmonic in 1997 after serving 14 years as a member of (and occasional soloist in) the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and principal cellist of the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra. The recipient of a Solo Recitalist’s Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, he has participated in more than 90 premieres with ensembles such as Speculum Musicae, New York New Music Ensemble, Group for Contemporary Music, and Columbia String Quartet, and has commissioned new cello works from American composers. He teaches orchestral repertoire and coaches the conductor-less orchestra at The Juilliard School.


It’s a long way from rural New England, where it all started. Here’s his Q & A.


Q: How did you discover music?


EB: I grew up in Marlboro, Vermont. While there weren’t musicians in my family, my father loved classical music, and the well-known music festival was right up the road. (Twice in the summer of ’71 I actually got a glimpse of Pablo Casals, and I mowed Hermann Busch’s grass.) Alan Carter, the founder of the Vermont Symphony, addressed the need for local string teachers by bringing one there from Connecticut, and provided student instruments for us to use for free.


My first teacher, the violinist Stanley Eukers, offered lessons on violin or cello. My father thought that the grumbly, out-of-tune cello playing of a beginner would be more bearable than a scratchy, screechy, out-of-tune violin. That’s how at age eight I started studying cello with a violinist in group lessons. Read More...

Meet Arlen Fast, Retiring New York Philharmonic Contrabassoon and Bassoon

Arlen Fast is the highly regarded contrabassoonist and bassoonist of the New York Philharmonic, as well as the husband of Anne Ediger, an applied linguist and professor at Hunter College. He is also a pioneer in instrument design who has introduced a dramatic evolution to his deep-voiced instrument that now enriches ensembles around the world, including The Cleveland and Metropolitan Opera Orchestras.


Arlen’s path to the Philharmonic (of which he has been a member for 24 years) and the frontiers of musical technology began on a Kansas farm and has been paved by persistence and a singular love for his instrument. Here's his Q & A, followed by the speech he would have given the night the Orchestra would have celebrated this years retirees.


Q: Would you tell us about your childhood?


AF: I grew up on a farm outside Moundridge, Kansas, that has been in my family since my great-grandfather’s time — I’m in the first generation not to have taken up farming, though we still own it. My grandparents and parents were instrumentalists and church singers, all of my siblings are musicians, and everyone could sing four-part harmony very well. Music was as essential as learning to read and write. Read More...

Remembering Leon Fleisher

 Leon Fleisher performing Hindemith's Piano Music with Orchestra, then Music Director Lorin Maazel conducting, 2006 (photo by Chris Lee) 

The New York Philharmonic deeply mourns the passing of the magnificent American pianist Leon Fleisher. The collaboration began with his Philharmonic debut in November 1944, when he performed Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 at age 16, and spanned his career as a pianist for the left hand and his return to two-hand performances. By his final Philharmonic appearances in 2008, Fleisher performed with the Orchestra 47 times, led by the preeminent conductors of his time, including Music Directors Szell, Bernstein, Boulez, Mehta, and Maazel. We remember Leon’s warmth, wit, and musicianship, and extend condolences to his family and friends.

(Photo by Chris Lee: Leon Fleisher performing Hindemith’s Piano Music with Orchestra with the New York Philharmonic in 2006)

To Shanghai, with Love

Though we can’t travel this year, we refused to let that stop us from participating in the annual Shanghai Orchestra Academy and Partnership, a joint endeavor between the New York Philharmonic and Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, to help train and inspire the next generation of orchestral musicians through instructional and performance activities. The visit to China has been postponed to the summer of 2021. Starr International Foundation has been the Presenting Sponsor of the Shanghai Orchestra Academy and Partnership for six years.


Instead of planned trip to Shanghai for performances as well as instruction at the Shanghai Orchestra Academy (SOA), scheduled for last month, in July the Philharmonic is participating in a variety of online projects.


Today SOA launched a virtual side-by-side performance of a selection from the third movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, Pathétique, featuring 50 Philharmonic musicians and 30 SOA students, released today (above).


Three Philharmonic principal players are giving one-on-one masterclasses. They are Principal Associate Concertmaster Sheryl Staples, Principal Flute Robert Langevin, and Principal Trombone Joseph Alessi, to be shared with SOA students and with students at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and non-professional young players. Here’s one of them.


The new Philharmonic Sound of SOA series includes seven videos of past performances by Philharmonic musicians and SOA students. Each is introduced by a Philharmonic musician who participated in the performances: Concertmaster Frank Huang, violist Vivek Kamath, cellist Patrick Jee, Principal Flute Robert Langevin, Principal Trombone Joseph Alessi, Associate Principal Trombone Colin Williams, and Principal Tuba Alan Baer.  Here’s a taste.


Other activities include online auditions and a virtual graduation ceremony, which included a commencement address by Philharmonic President and CEO Deborah Borda. In it she said:


Music nurtures. Music heals. Now and in the years to come, more than ever, the world will need music. Yes, much is uncertain about the coming months and years, but one thing is sure. Music will be needed. And you will be needed. Yours is the generation that will create the new paradigm for music in a world that is changing quickly, and you have the tools to meet that challenge. You will help to forge a more profound connection, and more timely connection, between our music and our public.”


Learn more about this international collaboration — including photos and video of past highlights, and how to enroll — nyphil.org/shanghai.


See you next summer!


America’s Orchestra on CNN’s The Fourth in America

The Fourth in America

America’s first orchestra is being featured in a Fourth of July celebration you can enjoy at home! Tune in to CNN Saturday night for The Fourth in America, the primetime musical special with an all-star line-up, airing from 8:00 p.m. to midnight EDT and hosted by CNN anchors Don Lemon and Dana Bash.The Fourth in America will honor the United States military, frontline workers battling the coronavirus pandemic, and citizens across the country demanding equality.

The Philharmonic will be seen and heard in a newly recorded virtual performance of America the Beautiful, played by the Orchestra’s musicians from their homes, and a past performance of the Candide Overture by Philharmonic Laureate Conductor Leonard Bernstein.

Oher ensembles featured in the broadcast: “The President’s Own” US Marine Band, US Navy Band, US Army Field Band, and the San Francisco Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Houston Symphony, and the Chicago and New York Youth Symphony orchestras. You’ll also catch performances by Jewel, Barry Manilow, Martina McBride, CeCe Winans, the Harlem Gospel Choir, and more.

Happy Fourth of July!

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