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New York Philharmonic
New York Philharmonic at The Shed - 51123218257.jpg
The orchestra at The Shed, Hudson Yards New York, NY, April 2021
Founded 1842; 181 years ago (1842)
Location New York, United States
Concert hall David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center
Principal conductor Jaap van Zweden

The New York Philharmonic, officially the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York, Inc., globally known as New York Philharmonic Orchestra (NYPO) or New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra, is a symphony orchestra based in New York City. It is one of the leading American orchestras popularly referred to as the "Big Five". The Philharmonic's home is David Geffen Hall, located in New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

The orchestra is one of the oldest musical institutions in the United States and the oldest of the "Big Five" orchestras. Its record-setting 14,000th concert was given in December 2004.

Bernstein with TV Camera
Leonard Bernstein with members of the Philharmonic rehearsing for a television broadcast, circa 1958. Bert Bial, New York Philharmonic Archives

The orchestra started in 1842. At that time it was called the Philharmonic Society. At its first concert the orchestra played a very long programme which included Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 conducted by Ureli Corelli Hill. The musicians worked as a cooperative or "communistic" society. This meant that the musicians themselves made up the rules about how the orchestra should be run: who would become a member, which music would be performed, and who would conduct. At the end of each season they divided any money the orchestra had earned amongst themselves.

Beethoven's ninth and a new home, 1846

The orchestra were a great success, but they needed a new concert hall. They gave a fund-raising concert which included Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. It was the first time it had ever been played in America. The concert took place in Castle Garden on the southern tip of Manhattan. There were about 400 performers in the orchestra and choir. The words that the choir sings were translated into English. It was the first time this work had been sung in English anywhere in the world. However, the tickets cost a lot of money: US$2.00 each, so not so many people came. It was some time before the orchestra got their concert hall. Many people thought Beethoven's 9th symphony was a strange piece of music because the choir only sing in the last movement which is called "Ode to Joy". In 1865 Theodore Eisfeld conducted the Orchestra’s memorial concert for the recently assassinated Abraham Lincoln, but the last movement was not performed because it was thought that the "Ode to Joy" was not suitable for the sad occasion.

Competition from another orchestra, 1878

Leopold Damrosch, who had been Franz Liszt's concertmaster at Weimar, was the orchestra’s conductor for the 1876-1877 season. But the public did not like him, so he started his own orchestra: the Symphony Society of New York. When he died in 1885, his 23-year-old son Walter Johannes Damrosch took over and continued the competition with the old Philharmonic. It was Walter who would make the rich Scotsman Andrew Carnegie realize that New York needed a really good concert hall and on May 5, 1891 both Walter and the Russian composer Tchaikovsky conducted at the first concert of the city's new Music Hall. A few years later this new hall was renamed Carnegie Hall after the man who gave the money for it to be built.

Theodore Thomas began conducting the Philharmonic in 1877 and made it a very good orchestra. In 1891 Thomas left New York to found the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Anton Seidl conducted the orchestra until 1898. Seidl had worked as Wagner's assistant and was famous for conducting Wagner’s music. He gave the first performance of Antonín Dvořák's Ninth Symphony "From the New World." Many people were sad when Seidl suddenly died in 1898 from food poisoning at the age of 47. Twelve thousand people applied for tickets to his funeral at the Metropolitan Opera House at 39th Street and Broadway and the streets were jammed with people and traffic.

New management, 1909

In 1909 the orchestra was organized differently. Instead of a cooperative, they were run by a small group of people called guarantors. They persuaded Gustav Mahler to be principal conductor. Instead of 18 concerts a season they gave 54, which included a tour of New England. Mahler was used to conducting opera, but now he could conduct symphonies, and he introduced audiences to his own compositions. During his time the orchestra were given regular salaries for the first time.

Between 1911 and 1920, the Philharmonic's conductor was Josef Stransky, who led every single one of the orchestra's concerts during this period.

Mergers and outreach, 1921

When the Philharmonic joined together with the National Symphony in 1921, they had the Dutch conductor Willem Mengelberg. He stayed there for nine years, although other conductors, including Bruno Walter, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Igor Stravinsky, and Arturo Toscanini, led about half the concerts. They started to have an outdoor symphony series, playing low-priced summer concerts at Lewisohn Stadium in upper Manhattan. In 1920 the orchestra hired Henry Hadley as "associate conductor" to perform concerts which included works by American composers.

In 1924, the Young People's Concerts were started, and soon grew to 15 concerts per season by the end of the 1920s. They started to make recordings. In 1928 they joined together with another orchestra, the New York Symphony Society. Toscanini conducted the newly organized orchestra, and continued until 1936.

The War years, 1940

The English conductor John Barbirolli and the Pole Artur Rodzinski, were joint replacements for Toscanini in 1936. The next year Barbirolli was made the main conductor, a post he held until the spring of 1941. In 1943, Rodzinski became conductor. He had also been conducting on the Sunday afternoon radio broadcast when CBS listeners around the country heard the announcer break in on Arthur Rubinstein's performance of Brahms's Second Piano Concerto to tell them about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Artur Rodzinski, Bruno Walter, and Sir Thomas Beecham made a series of recordings with the Philharmonic for Columbia Records during the 1940s.

The Telegenic Age, 1950

Leopold Stokowski and Dimitri Mitropoulos were the orchestra’s two conductors in 1949, with Mitropoulos becoming conductor in 1951. Mitropoulos often conducted new music and music that was not well known. In 1957, Mitropoulos and Leonard Bernstein served together as Principal Conductors until, in the course of the season, Bernstein was made conductor, becoming the first American-born-and-trained conductor of the Philharmonic.

Leonard Bernstein was Music Director for 11 seasons. Many new things happened during this time. Two television series were started on CBS: the Young People's Concerts and "Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic." The first of these started in 1958. It was a new idea and it won every award for educational television. Bernstein continued the orchestra's recordings with Columbia Records until he retired as music director in 1969. He got lots of composers, especially American composers such as Aaron Copland, to write new works for the orchestra.

In 1971 Pierre Boulez became the first Frenchman to have the job of conductor of the Philharmonic. Boulez had new ideas about music to be performed. He was a composer himself and often performed modern music.

Ambassadors abroad

Zubin Mehta became conductor in 1978. He, too, conducted a lot of new music.

Kurt Masur, who had often been conducting the Philharmonic since 1981, became conductor in 1991. During his time he included a series of free Memorial Day Concerts at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and annual concert tours abroad that included the orchestra's first trip to mainland China. His stayed until 2002, and was then given the honorary title “Music Director Emeritus of the Philharmonic”.

On 26 February 2008 the Philharmonic gave a concert in Pyongyang in North Korea. It was the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953 that there had been an important cultural visit from the United States to North Korea.

A third century, 2000

Maazel 08
Lorin Maazel

In September 2002, 60 years after conducting the Orchestra at the age of twelve at Lewisohn Stadium, Lorin Maazel became conductor of the Philharmonic. In his first subscription week he conducted the first ever performance of John Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls. This work had been composed in memory of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. He performed new music as well as music of the well-known composers. He will stay with the orchestra until the end of the 2008-2009 season.

Recent history

On July 18, 2007, the Philharmonic named Alan Gilbert as its next music director, effective with the 2009/10 season, with an initial contract of five years. On May 5, 2010, the New York Philharmonic performed its 15,000th concert, a milestone unmatched by any other symphony orchestra in the world. In October 2012, the orchestra extended Gilbert's contract through the 2016/17 season. In February 2015, the orchestra announced the scheduled conclusion of Gilbert's tenure its music director after the close of the 2016/17 season.

In January 2016, the orchestra announced the appointment of Jaap van Zweden as its next music director, effective with the 2018/19 season, with an initial contract of five years. van Zweden is scheduled to serve as music director designate for the 2017/18 season. In September 2021, van Zweden stated his intention to stand down as the orchestra's music director at the close of the 2023–2024 season.

The current president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the orchestra is Deborah Borda. Borda had previously held the same posts, as well as the post of managing director, with the orchestra. Borda is scheduled to stand down as the orchestra's president and CEO on June 30, 2023. In June 2022, the orchestra announced the appointment of Gary Ginstling as its next president and CEO, effective July 1, 2023. Ginstling is scheduled to take the title of executive director with the orchestra in the autumn of 2022.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the orchestra was unable to give live concerts in David Geffen Hall as of March 2020. Renovation of David Geffen Hall commenced during the pandemic, with a scheduled reopening of the renovated hall at the start of the 2022–2023 season. The orchestra performed concerts at other New York City venues during the 2021-2022 season, including Alice Tully Hall, the Rose Theater, and Carnegie Hall.

In November 2022, the orchestra was made up of a majority of women—45 women and 44 men—for the first time in its history.

Music directors

  • Ureli Corelli Hill, Henry Timm, Denis Etienne, William Alpers, George Loder, Louis Wiegers and Alfred Boucher (1842–1849)
  • Theodore Eisfeld (1849–1854)
  • Theodore Eisfeld and Henry Timm (1854–1855)
  • Carl Bergmann (1855–1856)
  • Theodore Eisfeld (1856–1858)
  • Carl Bergmann (1858–1859)
  • Carl Bergmann and Theodore Eisfeld (1859–1865)
  • Carl Bergmann (1865–1876)
  • Leopold Damrosch (1876–1877)
  • Theodore Thomas (1877–1878)
  • Adolf Neuendorff (1878–1879)
  • Theodore Thomas (1879–1891)
  • Anton Seidl (1891–1898)
  • Emil Paur (1898–1902)
  • Walter Damrosch (1902–1903)
  • Wassily Safonoff (1906–1909)


  • Richard Arnold (1885–1909)
  • Maximilian Pilzer (1915–1917)
  • Alfred Eugene Megerlin (1917–1921)
  • Scipione Guidi (1921–1931)
  • Mishel Piastro (1931–1943)
  • John Corigliano, Sr. (1943–1966)
  • Jacob Krachmalnik (Spring 1961)
  • David Nadien (1966-Sept. 1970)
  • Frank Gullino (a.i. oct. 1970–1971)
  • Rafael Druian (1971–1974)
  • Eliot Chapo (1973–1976)
  • Rodney Friend (1976–1980)
  • Sidney Harth (a.i. 1979–1980)
  • Glenn Dicterow (1980–2014)
  • Frank Huang (since 2015)

Leonard Bernstein Scholar-in-Residence

The Leonard Bernstein Scholar-in-Residence was established in 2005 in recognition of the fifteenth anniversary of Bernstein's death. He/she gives an annual lecture series and is also featured in NYP events. Conductor Charles Zachary Bornstein was the first Leonard Bernstein Scholar-in-Residence, serving from 2005 through 2008. James M. Keller held the position during the 2008–09 season, and American baritone Thomas Hampson was appointed to the post in July 2009. The current holder of the position is Michael Beckerman, Carroll and Milton Petrie Chair and Collegiate Professor of Music at New York University.

Composer in residence

Alan Gilbert introduced the position of a Marie-Josée Kravis composer in residence, which is a three-year appointment.

  • Magnus Lindberg (2009–2012)
  • Christopher Rouse (2012–2015)
  • Esa-Pekka Salonen (2015–2018)

Honors and awards

Grammy Award for Best Classical Album

  • 1965 Bernstein: Symphony No. 3 "Kaddish"
  • 1974 Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra
  • 1978 Concert of the Century
  • 1991 Ives: Symphony No. 2; Gong on the Hook and Ladder; Central Park in the Dark; The Unanswered Question
  • 2005 Adams: On the Transmigration of Souls

Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance

Grammy Award for Best Album for Children

Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist with Orchestra

  • 1979 Horowitz Golden JubileeRachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3
  • 1982 Isaac Stern 60th Anniversary Celebration

Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance

Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance

Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album, Classical

  • 1976 Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé
  • 1979 Varèse: Amériques/Arcana/Ionisation
  • 1982 Isaac Stern 60th Anniversary Celebration


The New York Philharmonic Archives documents the history of the Philharmonic through visual and ephemeral history and printed music collections. The collection dates back to the beginning of the Philharmonic's history in 1842. The Archives are sponsored by the Leon Levy Foundation and are located at Lincoln Center.

In recent years, the Archives has undertaken a digitization project to digitize all of its materials between 1943 and 1970 in a digital archive called "The International Era, 1943–1970."

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Orquesta Filarmónica de Nueva York para niños

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