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#907246 - 06/05/03 08:00 AM Oh No!
AndrewG Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2506
Loc: Denver, Colorado
Before I left NY area around 1988 I always acoustically appreciate Avery Fisher Hall much than that of Carnegie. Now this!

From the New York Times:

June 2, 2003
New York Philharmonic to Move to Carnegie Hall

In a surprising cultural merger, the New York Philharmonic has agreed to move to Carnegie Hall, leaving Lincoln Center, officials of the orchestra and the hall said yesterday. The move back to Carnegie Hall, where the orchestra had historically resided on West 57th Street, could come as soon as 2006, more than 40 years after it left and became an anchor of Lincoln Center.

"There's no reason why it shouldn't be a done deal," said Sanford I. Weill, chairman of Carnegie Hall. "I've worked on a lot of mergers, and I've never seen a fit as perfect as this."

The move would give Carnegie Hall the oldest orchestra in the country and deprive Lincoln Center of the first cultural institution established there. For the Philharmonic, going to Carnegie Hall means it can exchange the flawed acoustics of Avery Fisher Hall for a stage of undisputed sound quality, without having to foot the bill for a costly renovation. It would also turn the orchestra, now led by Lorin Maazel, from a rent-paying tenant into a managing partner.

"We've got two major institutions — one is the greatest hall in the world, the other is the greatest orchestra in the world," said Zarin Mehta, the Philharmonic's executive director. "This merger is to strengthen our respective positions."

The plan has jolted Lincoln Center. Its chairman, Bruce Crawford, and its president, Reynold Levy, said they were taken aback when told on Thursday of the planned switch. It leaves them no long-term occupant for Avery Fisher Hall, where the orchestra has been based since 1962. But it also affords them opportunities to reshape the performing arts scene for decades to come.

Martin E. Segal, a chairman emeritus of Lincoln Center, voiced outrage at the prospect that the arts campus would lose its original tenant and called the merger "a form of cultural cannibalism."

Paul B. Guenther, chairman of the Philharmonic, responded that "it was not a question of luring the Philharmonic to Carnegie Hall, but of the Philharmonic doing what is best for its long-term interests."

In light of a nationwide decline in advance ticket sales, the Philharmonic's subscription audience would also give Carnegie Hall a stable revenue stream. At a time when orchestras around the country are succumbing to dire financial pressures, Mr. Weill, chairman of Citigroup and one of the nation's leading philanthropists, and Mr. Guenther, former president of the Paine Webber Group Inc., said the proposed merger would make powerful financial sense, giving the new entity a combined endowment of about $350 million.

Carnegie Hall, owned by the city, has been running in the black, they said, and the Philharmonic this year had a slight deficit, under $1 million, after having operated profitably since the early 1990's. Both Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall have about 2,800 seats.

The two executives confirmed the merger plan in joint telephone interviews yesterday. They said that in the last few days their executive committees had unanimously approved a merger of their boards and organizations and that they had held separate telephone consultations last night to advance the plans.

Before the merger can happen, Mr. Guenther said, the Philharmonic's commitments to Lincoln Center must be fully assessed. Both boards would then need to approve the alliance formally.

Mr. Weill said that he told Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg about the merger on Saturday and that "I think he thinks this is very good."

Mr. Bloomberg could not be reached for comment last night. Kate D. Levin, the city's commissioner of cultural affairs, commended the merger. "There are a lot of opportunities here," she said.

Carter Brey, the Philharmonic's principal cellist, called the move "the best news in the world."

"I don't think there is a musician in the New York Philharmonic who would not love to be affiliated with Carnegie," he said.

Mr. Weill and Mr. Guenther said that talks would continue this week to plan an expansion of Carnegie Hall's backstage space at an estimated cost of $10 million to $20 million — far less than the $100 million a consultant had projected — but that otherwise the hall, celebrated for its fine acoustics, would remain untouched. They said that the switch could probably not come before the 2006-7 season because of longstanding bookings by Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall, but that the Philharmonic would step up its appearances at Carnegie in the meantime.

Reinstalling the 161-year-old orchestra in the hall where it presided from 1891 to 1962 would sharply curtail the availability of the famed stage to the world's leading ensembles, sending them in search of other sites, undoubtedly including Avery Fisher Hall, where the Philharmonic is now the lone regular tenant. Lincoln Center uses the theater for other programming when it is available.

The relocation would also come as another prime tenant at Lincoln Center, the New York City Opera, is pursuing a move downtown. It has long been unhappy with the acoustics in the New York State Theater, which it shares with the New York City Ballet. Irwin Schneiderman, the chairman of City Opera, said the company would not be interested in moving into Avery Fisher. "It doesn't have the stage or the fly space that an opera house needs," he said.

The orchestra's decision to pull out of discussions about reconstructing Avery Fisher Hall, at a cost of as much as $260 million, underlines the problems Lincoln Center faces as it grapples with even a scaled-down renovation project. The renovation was once put at $1.5 billion over a decade, and now has been reduced to $350 million over 12 years, not counting work on Avery Fisher.

Mr. Crawford said the plan took him by surprise. "We knew what they described as low-level discussions had gone on a few months ago," he said. "I had been assured by the Philharmonic this was not a real option. I would have preferred a more collegial approach."

Mr. Crawford said he was not aware that the Philharmonic had hired the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to study the cost and feasibility of a move to Carnegie Hall. The firm had been one of seven rejected for a redesign of Avery Fisher Hall last year.

Mr. Levy, Lincoln Center's president, said: "Lincoln Center has been a great home to the New York Philharmonic. Avery Fisher Hall was built for the Philharmonic."

But they and Beverly Sills, the center's previous chairwoman, said the orchestra's departure created opportunities for extended residencies by other orchestras and educational collaborations with the Juilliard School. "Close the door, open a window," Ms. Sills said.

Mr. Crawford said the Metropolitan Opera's orchestra, which typically plays several engagements at Carnegie Hall, might like to establish a more substantial season at Avery Fisher. He said Lincoln Center's Great Performers series and its summer festival might also use Avery Fisher more.

"We have this fabulous facility," Mr. Levy said. "We need to fix it up and aesthetically and acoustically improve it, but I have no doubt we can discharge our responsibility to the city and to the public."

Many issues remain to be resolved. But Mr. Weill and Mr. Guenther dismissed the impediments as largely minor. "Leases never stopped anything good from happening," Mr. Weill said. Mr. Guenther said that a merger had attracted such powerful support, "I'd bet on it."

They said that the planned administrative sharing, while unusual, would pose no problems. Mr. Mehta of the Philharmonic is to stay on to run the orchestral aspects, alongside Robert J. Harth, Carnegie Hall's executive and artistic director, who will run the house.

Mr. Mehta said the Philharmonic, which pays its musicians 52 weeks a year, might take advantage of Carnegie Hall's two other stages, perhaps moving its chamber music from the 92nd Street Y. "The possibilities are endless," he said.

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#907247 - 06/06/03 09:09 PM Re: Oh No!
Joy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 550
Loc: Encinitas, CA
Hi Andrew!

On the brighter side, perhaps the Avery Fisher vacancy opens many more opportunities for Juilliard students and the many other talented performing artists at large.



#907248 - 06/07/03 09:56 AM Re: Oh No!
TomK Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/06/02
Posts: 2611
Mr. Weill and Mr. Guenther said that talks would continue this week to plan an expansion of Carnegie Hall's backstage space at an estimated cost of $10 million to $20 million —[/b]
Good move for the Philharmonic, but Carnegie Hall is THE most worked on building in the world. More sidewalk bridges for me to walk under--sigh.

AF Hall is really an OK hall--it just ain't great, but as Joy said this will open up a whole new opportunity for Juilliard School. Good for them.

#907249 - 07/06/03 12:30 AM Re: Oh No!
CrashTest Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/01
Posts: 4111
I actually like Carnegie Hall acoustically better than Avery Fisher hall, so hopefully good things will come of this.

#907250 - 07/06/03 03:32 PM Re: Oh No!
Hank Drake Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/31/01
Posts: 1708
Loc: Cleveland, Ohio
"Tear it down and start over."
George Szell on Avery Fischer Hall
Hank Drake

The composers want performers be imaginative, in the direction of their thinking--not just robots, who execute orders.
George Szell

#907251 - 07/06/03 07:11 PM Re: Oh No!
Piano World Offline

Registered: 05/24/01
Posts: 6100
Loc: Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
I agree with CrashTest, I like Carnegie's acoustics better.
Hey, now that's where we should hold the Piano Forums National party.

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#907252 - 07/06/03 11:00 PM Re: Oh No!
CrashTest Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/01
Posts: 4111
Would we be able to select the pianos? I see a group trip to the Steinway basement in the future! \:D

#907253 - 07/07/03 01:01 AM Re: Oh No!
Steve Miller Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 3291
Loc: Yorba Linda, CA
This sort of thing is happening in other places as well - notably in LA.

There was a nice article about it in the LA Times this morning - you can find it here:

Big City Hall Marks
Defender of the Landfill Piano

#907254 - 07/08/03 11:31 PM Re: Oh No!
CrashTest Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/01
Posts: 4111
Thanks for the article, Steve.

#907255 - 07/11/03 09:16 PM Re: Oh No!
ChickGrand Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 3269
Loc: Midwest U.S.
I was listening to a discussion of this move by members of of the NYP a couple of weeks ago on the car radio on an NPR station. They were uniformly happy about the move back to Carnegie. Their unanimous complaint about Avery was that while the acoustics for the listening audience were not bad, the acoustics on the stage for the musicians were such that they could never hear their own instrument's performance. I can see why that would be particularly unhelpful to them.


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