The New York Philharmonic

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Usedom Music Festival: NY Phil On the Road Again!

The New York Philharmonic made its triumphant return to international touring — following two years in which the pandemic kept the Orchestra homebound — with its first-ever appearances at the Usedom Music Festival, on an island in the Baltic Sea, and became the first US orchestra to travel overseas since the pandemic. Music Director Jaap van Zweden and the Orchestra performed a series of concerts at the Peenemünde Historical Technical Museum, the site of a former Nazi weapon testing facility during World War II — a transformation that is a statement of peace, freedom, and unity among nations. Joining them as soloists were pianist Jan Lisiecki, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, and baritone Thomas Hampson, and the repertoire ranged from Beethoven and Bartók to European premieres by Nina Shekhar and Joan Tower. The festival also marked a collaboration with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, with members of that orchestra joining in the performance of Shostakovich’s Ninth Symphony, and joining New York Philharmonic players for chamber concerts featuring works by Barber, Brahms, and Mozart. 

(All photos by Chris Lee unless otherwise noted.)

Public Art Commissions for the New David Geffen Hall

Artists Jacolby Satterwhite and Nina Chanel Abney

When the new David Geffen Hall opens this October, music may be the centerpiece in the state-of-the-art theater, but contemporary art will also have a prominent place. Tens of thousands of square feet of new public space will allow the New York Philharmonic and Lincoln Center to expand the way that they engage and connect with the diverse community of New Yorkers.

Lincoln Center has commissioned two original works by acclaimed artists Nina Chanel Abney (above, right) and Jacolby Satterwhite (left) — in a partnership with The Studio Museum in Harlem and Public Art Fund — that will utilize much of this space and help inaugurate the new concert hall, while honoring New York City’s storied — and often complex — cultural history.

Abney, whose work “conveys a sense of expansiveness” (The New York Times), will create an installation for David Geffen Hall’s nearly 200-foot north façade, along 65th Street, one of the most visible areas of the building that has not previously been utilized for artworks. Her new work will be a celebration of the rich cultural heritage of San Juan Hill — the Upper West Side community that existed before Lincoln Center’s construction — and will feature portraits of its notable residents and scenes drawn from the daily life of that community, all rendered in her signature bright colors.

Satterwhite, who is known for his dreamlike digital animations that synthesize a wide variety of media, will create a new video displayed on the 50-foot Digital Wall in David Geffen Hall’s new lobby, viewable to the public at no cost. The video will feature performances by music and dance students from local New York City schools, composited onto fantastical landscapes along with archival footage from Lincoln Center’s history — a merging of past and present with an eye toward a more inclusive future.

“A guiding principle of the new David Geffen Hall is to open our campus to our community — through the structure of the building and by how we present the art we curate,” said Deborah Borda, the NY Phil’s Linda and Mitch Hart President and CEO. “The very public unveiling of these two dynamic pieces will announce to New York City and the world that we are back, and that we welcome all artists and all art lovers.”

Orin O’Brien, NY Phil Bass for 55 Years


“It may sound naïve, but for a musician, playing in a great orchestra is like being at one with the universe. The whole is greater than any one individual, and you combine to make something that in the best concerts is like a religious experience.” Orin O’Brien said that some 20 years ago. Today she adds: “I’ve always felt this way.”

Her earliest memories include the New York Philharmonic. Her parents, both Hollywood actors, encouraged their children’s in­terest in culture, from books to ballet. She recalls: “They listened to classical music all the time” — including, on every Sunday, NY Phil radio broadcasts. Orin moved from piano to double bass at age 14 to join her high school orchestra. Her distinguished instructors included two NY Phil veterans, Herman Reinshagen and Freder­ick Zimmermann, the latter serving as Associate Principal Bass. “These teacher-players stressed clear articulation and fidelity to the musical page, and under­standing how to follow a conductor’s instructions,” Orin recalls. While studying at The Juilliard School she worked as a Carnegie Hall usher, an experience that enhanced her studies. “I heard the Philharmonic perform four, five times a week, with my teacher in the bass section!”

She passes these lessons on to her own students, focusing on how the individual fits in with the ensemble. “The bass is so low pitched that you have to be very precise in your articulation to make it clear when you’re playing in a section for an audience,” she explains. “I would insist that my students attend Philharmonic rehearsals so they could learn from a living example.”

Orin has handed down the Philharmonic performance tradition to orchestral bass players around the country, including three current members of the Orchestra. And she still teaches at the Manhattan School of Music and Mannes School of Music. (Note to would-be professionals: check out her Double-Bass Notebook, published by Carl Fischer.) She remains connected with the NY Phil, and will return this fall to listen in during the testing of the new David Geffen Hall’s acoustic. Still, leaving is bittersweet. “I miss the camaraderie of the bass section, and experienc­ing music in the midst of the Orchestra.” Yet her Philharmonic connection continues: she still attends concerts, and friendships forged with players live on.

On Orin’s retirement, Associate Principal Bassoon Kim Laskowski, one of her closest friends, says: “I was in complete awe of Orin O’Brien when I joined the Orchestra. She was hired by Ber­nstein, had played with so many legendary conductors and soloists, and had recorded so many of the LPs we all cherished as young musicians. As a teacher, she educated a generation of dou­ble bassists, many of whom peopled orchestras all over the world. We shared many of the same freelance experiences, and we both were mem­bers of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, al­though not at the same time. She also shared with me anecdotes, clippings, letters, and pro­grams from the Philharmonic’s past that edu­cated me. I will miss seeing her smiling, attentive face as I look to the left.”

In photo: Orin O’Brien with Philharmonic Laureate Conductor Leonard Bernstein, the Music Director during whose tenure she joined the Orchestra

Ackman Prize Awarded to Beatrice Rana

 Pianist Beatrice Rana

“I was speechless. It is a way to recognize the work, to see that the life, the musical and interpretational choices, have been recognized by an institution like the New York Philharmonic, which is so important in the music scene.”

So said Beatrice Rana when she learned that she was to receive the Ronnie and Lawrence Ackman Classical Piano Prize at the New York Philharmonic, which honors and supports rising pianists. Recipients — chosen by a confidential panel — receive $30,000, perform with the Orchestra, and serve as classical music ambassadors around the city. Benjamin Grosvenor received the inaugural award, in 2017.

The Prize is made possible by Lawrence and Ronnie Ackman, long-standing supporters of the New York Philharmonic and lovers of classical music: Lawrence has served on the NY Phil’s Board of Directors since 2010, and Ronnie is on the Lincoln Center Board — and she’s a gifted pianist.

Rana’s activities connected with the Ackman Prize include her NY Phil debut, performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 on June 2–4, conducted by Music Director Jaap van Zweden; a collaboration with the New York Philharmonic String Quartet at the 92nd Street Y on June 7; and an after-school visit with student instrumentalists from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, on June 1.

In the words of Lawrence Ackman, Beatrice Rana “perfectly captures the artistry and advocacy that the Prize was created to celebrate, and we look forward to experiencing both in her upcoming Philharmonic collaborations.”

Mitropoulos Scores

Dimitri Mitropoulos looking over a score

Dimitri Mitropoulos — the Greek-born conductor, pianist, and composer — first conducted the New York Philharmonic in 1940. His association with the Orchestra would last until his death in 1960, a 20-year span that included his tenure as Music Director (1949–58) and 764 performances around the world, including premieres of works by many of the most celebrated composers of the era.

Noted for his meticulousness as much as his championing of contemporary music, Mitropoulos would go through and carefully mark up his scores, committing each note to memory before the first rehearsal. Now, for the first time, more than 120 of his marked scores are available to the public through the NY Phil Shelby White & Leon Levy Digital Archives. Included in the collection are the scores of numerous works that received either their US or World Premieres with the NY Phil, including pieces by Schoenberg, Mahler, Barber, Schuller, and Krenek.

The material was loaned to the Philharmonic by the University of Iowa’s Rita Benton Music Library; they mark the most significant addition of music to the NY Phil Digital Archives since the launch of Leonard Bernstein’s collection in 2011. They join marked scores from past Music Directors and conductors such as Mahler, Arturo Toscanini, Artur Rodziński, Erich Leinsdorf, Pierre Boulez, Zubin Mehta, and Kurt Masur.

This public unveiling of the scores coincides with the release of Sony Classical’s new 69-CD box set of Mitropoulos’s complete recordings for RCA and Columbia, many of which were recorded during his tenure as the NY Phil’s Music Director.

Spring Gala: Disney’s “Fantasia” in Concert

The New York Philharmonic celebrated its 2022 Spring Gala in style, bringing the magic of the movies to life in a festive evening chaired by Alexander and Kristen Klabin, James and Margo Nederlander, and Mary Wallach. Academy Award–nominated composer David Newman led the Orchestra in selections from Disney’s Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 — including Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and Symphony No. 6, Pastoral, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite, Stravinsky’s The Firebird Suite, Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, and, of course, Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice — while Disney’s groundbreaking animation was projected on a giant screen for audience members of all ages to enjoy. Part of the NY Phil’s The Art of the Score, the performance was preceded by a cocktail reception and followed by dinner.

Newman remarked from the podium on how the original Fantasia had the power to uplift and inspire when the country was emerging from the Great Depression, as it does now as we emerge from two years of the pandemic.

Opening the Gate

 The panelists participating in 'Opening the Gate,' part of 'The Unanswered Questions'

Throughout our history, and to this day, artists from marginalized groups — including the Black community and women — have faced barriers to entry erected around historically white institutions and arts organizations. On Friday, April 8, 2022, at 1:45 p.m. ET, The Unanswered Questions: Opening the Gate examines this issue, as well as the various means by which artists have challenged the status quo and successfully broken down these barriers, while making new spaces for creative expression. The conversation was inspired in part by the backlash within the classical music establishment to the Grammy nominations of Black artists Curtis Stewart and Jon Batiste, whose works were considered by some to be not truly classical.

The fifth installment of The Unanswered Questions — the new series presented by the NY Phil and John Jay College of Criminal Justice delving into complex societal topics raised by the Orchestra’s programming will feature a panel comprising Stewart, the Grammy-nominated violinist who previously participated in NY Phil Bandwagon; Anna Glass, executive director of Dance Theatre of Harlem; and Edward Yim, chief content officer and senior vice president at WQXR. Ethnomusicologist Dr. Fredara Hadley, a professor at The Juilliard School and a previous Unanswered Questions panelist, will moderate the discussion.

The full discussion will be streamed live on the Philharmonic’s Facebook page. Previous installments of The Unanswered Questions series are available to view on YouTubeOpening the Gate will be added at a later date.










 The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts at Oklahoma State University during the NY Phil's 2019 visit; photo by Chris Lee

The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts at Oklahoma State University and the New York Philharmonic announced today a three-year residency partnership. The collaboration provides valuable educational opportunities for Oklahoma State University (OSU) Greenwood School of Music and Stillwater Public Schools students. Each year the residency will include a gala event and public performances conducted by Music Director Jaap van Zweden, plus a youth education concert and a multitude of masterclasses in which students can interact with some of the world’s greatest musicians. As part of the program, select OSU music students will travel to New York City every year for immersive learning opportunities with the Philharmonic.

The NY Phil looks forward to returning to Stillwater to build on the friendship that began when the Orchestra inaugurated the McKnight Center in 2019.