#dailydocument from the Archives

posts from April 2020

April 30, 2020

News of President John F. Kennedy's assassination reached the New York Philharmonic during a Friday matinee concert led by George Szell. Following Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3, Orchestra Manager Carlos Moseley broke the news to the audience and canceled the rest of the program. The remaining concerts that weekend replaced the overture with the funeral march from Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, Eroica, performed without applause.

On Sunday, November 24, 1963, Leonard Bernstein conducted Mahler's Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, in a televised tribute to President Kennedy. Not only was it the first time the complete symphony was televised, but performing Mahler for an event of this nature was unprecedented. At the United Jewish Appeal Benefit the next day, Bernstein explained his novel decision to program this work rather than the expected Eroica or a requiem.

Yellow lined notebook paper with Leonard Bernstein's handwritten speech draft on it
Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Read Bernstein's full speech here.

April 29, 2020

The reason Mahler came to America? One woman — and her name was Mary Sheldon.

Read more about Mrs. Sheldon's role in bringing Mahler to the New York Philharmonic, as well as the other important women in Mahler's life, including his wife, Alma.

Alma Mahler
View the exhibit Mahler and Women on Google Arts & Culture

April 24, 2020

Join us for a trip to Vienna to celebrate the beautiful interpretation by Christa Ludwig and Walter Berry of selections from Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn. This was performed by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, as a 125th birthday present to our collegues at the Vienna Philharmonic, who share the same founding year as us: 1842.

Go to the New York Philharmonic's Facebook page tomorrow (Saturday) at 2:00 pm EDT, where we will be streaming Young People's Concert: A Toast to Vienna in 3/4 Time with Leonard Bernstein. You can see the full program in the Digital Archives here.

Photo of Walter Berry and Christa Ludwig.
Christa Ludwig and Walter Berry. See more photos in the Digital Archives

April 23, 2020

This manuscript is one of the last or latest drafts of the fourth movement from Symphony No. 10 left behind after Mahler's death.

On the last page of the Scherzo, Mahler wrote a note to his wife Alma: Du allein weisst was es bedeutet (You alone know what it means). Alma recalled years later that Mahler was referring to the drumbeats of a funeral procession they observed from their window on Central Park West in New York which inspired this passage.

Tune in tonight on Facebook to see musicians from the New York Philharmonic perform Mahler excerpts from home, including this funeral march from Symphony No. 10.

Handwritten music manuscript with German writing on it.
See more of Mahler's manuscripts on IMSLP

April 22, 2020

Take a walk with musicians from the New York Philharmonic and learn about the New York City that Mahler knew. You might be surprised by what's changed and what's stayed the same!

Gustav Mahler superimposed over an old map of New York City.
Explore on Google Arts & Culture

April 21, 2020

Dive into this collection of artifacts belonging to the Reiff family. The Reiff patriach, Anton (b. 1803, d. 1880), was a native of Mainz, Germany and was one of the founding members of the New York Philharmonic. He played first bassoon from 1842–64 and also served as Society Vice President (1861) and Treasurer (1862). Both his sons were also musicians; Ambrose (b. 1846, d. unknown) taught music lessons in Brooklyn and was also the family historian, and Anthony (b. 1830, d. 1916) played violin and viola in the Philharmonic from 1847–84.

This assortment of family memorabilia and miscellany is a time capsule of what it was like to be a musician in the late 19th century, containing everything from a personal prayer book to clarinet reeds and playing cards.

A large strongbox filled with tuning forks, clarinet reeds, family portraits, and other miscellany.
Explore the Reiff family history in the Digital Archives

April 20, 2020

For today’s #dailydocument, here is the program from the first Mahler symphony heard in America: November 6, 1909, with Walter Damrosch and the New York Symphony performing the Fourth.

Walter Damrosch, conductor of the New York Symphony (which later merged with the New York Philharmonic) was one of America’s most progressive new-music performers. In addition to introducing Mahler he championed Tchaikovsky, Debussy, and Gershwin.

Program from 1904
See it in the Digital Archives

April 17, 2020

From a time when Gustav Mahler wasn't a household name, tune in to see our very own Leonard Bernsstein introduce one of his favorite composers to children, and adults of all ages!

Tomorrow at 2 pm, the New York Philharmonic will broadcast a Young People's Concert with Leonard Bernstein: Who is Gustav Mahler? The script, along with contracts and planning materials, can be found in the Digital Archives. You can also read the program from the original concert on January 23, 1960.

A script printed on blue paper.
Read more in the Digital Archives

April 15, 2020

Although we're very disappointed that our Mahler in New York Festival has been canceled due to COVID-19, that's no reason we can't celebrate Gustav Mahler from home! We have partnered with Google Arts & Culture to bring Mahler and his New York experience to you.

Gustav Mahler
Explore the first installment of our virtual exhibit here

April 14, 2020

We love looking at the markings of our Music Directors and guest conductors — their scores reveal a wealth of knowledge about the composition and different interpretations! But sometimes a score is just whatever paper happened to be laying around, as is the case with Leonard Bernstein's score for Mozart's Requiem. Flipping to the end pages reveals a rather unusual list...

As Craig Urquhart, Bernstein's former assistant, told the story: “LB and I were flying the Concorde to London and Johnny Carson sat in front of us. LB asked after Joanna Carson (they were recently divorced). So we played a little game of trying to think of everyone with the initials JC — starting with Jesus Christ.”

List of people whose initials are JC.
See the full list in the Digital Archives

April 13, 2020

#OTD in 1950, Music Director Dimitri Mitropoulos led the New York Philharmonic in the World Premiere of Arnold Schoenberg's A Survivor from Warsaw. Mitropoulos instructed the men's chorus to stand up gradually as the narrator described prisoners in the Warsaw ghetto slowing getting to their feet to sing the Shema Yisrael. The New York Times music critic Olin Downes called this choreography “hammy” and said the music was “poor and empty.”

The audience, however, was so enthralled with the performance that when Mitropoulos asked if they would like to hear the piece again, they said, “Encore!”

News articles reviewing the 1949-50 concert season.
Read more in the Digital Archives

April 9, 2020

Tune in tonight on Facebook at 7:30 p.m. to hear two of the Philharmonic’s closest family members — Emanuel Ax and Kurt Masur — in their first NY Phil collaboration: Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, from 1994. They would go on to perform all five Beethoven concertos together with the Orchestra during the Lincoln Center Festival in July 1999. Enjoy!

Music Director Kurt Masur and pianist Emanuel Ax greet each other.
Manny Ax and Kurt Masur in Tokyo, 2002. Photo by Chris Lee. See more in the Digital Archives

April 8, 2020

This week the New York Philharmonic mourns the passing of Albert K. “Nick” Webster, former Philharmonic Managing Director who had a long career with the Orchestra from 1962-1991.

Webster began just as the orchestra moved to Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center in 1962. He served with Music Directors Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Zubin Mehta, and he was instrumental in hiring Kurt Masur. It was also under Nick’s direction that the Archives was officially established in 1984. He will be sorely missed.

Pierre Boulez, Nick Webster, and Carlos Moseley stand next to each other smiling. Nick Webster sits at a picnic table with New York Philharmonic musicians and Assistant Conductor Seiji Ozawa.
Left: Nick with Music Director Pierre Boulez and Philharmonic President Carlos Moseley, 1970s. Photo by Mary Hilliard. Right: Nick, top, to the right of Assistant Conductor Seiji Ozawa with Philharmonic orchestra and staff on tour in California, 1963. Photo by Rey Ruppel.

April 7, 2020

Noted newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer wrote the New York Philharmonic into his will, promising $1 million if the Orchestra became a membership corporation. After his death in 1911 management hurriedly complied, reorganizing into the structure we know today. Today’s #dailydocument is our first membership request, asking for donors to support the Philharmonic in a new way.

Aged brown envelope labeled “Pulitzer Bequest” in handwritten ink, next to two small printed cards.
See more in the Digital Archives

The Philharmonic has been able to thrive, thanks to Pulitzer’s bequest and to the many members and donors who have supported our Orchestra since. In the spirit of Pulitzer, please help this American cultural icon survive and continue to serve our community with a gift to the NY Phil Plays On Emergency Fund.

April 6, 2020

Social distancing is hard. But we’ve all got to do it — for our friends, family, and neighbors.

If you’re feeling blue, here’s a smiling New York Philharmonic Music Director Dimitri Mitropoulos (1949-1958) surrounded by puppies.

Dimitri Mitropoulos smiling and holding puppies.
See more photographs of Mitropoulos in the Digital Archives

April 3, 2020

Be sure to check out the recent virtual performance of Ravel’s Boléro by New York Philharmonic musicians!

Did you know the New York Philharmonic performed the World Premiere of the concert-version of Boléro? Until 2018 the performance — Toscanini conducting the Philharmonic on November 14, 1929 — was thought to be the US Premiere but musicologists working on a critical edition of the work for XXI Music Publishing determined it was actually the World Premiere. It's always exciting to see these types of new discoveries!

Concert program for the World Premiere of Boléro in concert-version by the Philharmonic and Toscanini, November 14, 1929.
See the full program in the Digital Archives

April 2, 2020

Tune in at 7:30 EDT on Facebook to watch our rebroadcast of Act I from Wagner’s Die Walküre, conducted by Jaap van Zweden. Follow along on the Digital Archives with Zubin Mehta’s score or one of our musicians’ parts.

Cover and first page of Zubin Mehta’s score to Wagner Die Walküre
Read more in the Digital Archives

Today’s #dailydocument comes from a previous time of need — this time World War II. The New York Philharmonic and NBC Symphony banded together in a benefit concert for the Red Cross conducted by Arturo Toscanini. At least 18,000 people attended sold out Madison Square Garden to hear selections by Wagner and Verdi. Over $100,000 was raised for the Red Cross — “the symbol under which charity may cross enemy lines, the symbol upon which all but the most barbaric refuse to fire.”

This souvenir program, one of 100 given to first donors, contains pictures of Toscanini as well as accompanying illustrations for each work on the program. To show further support for the war effort, the drawing accompanying Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries shows not the Valkyrie sisters transporting fallen heroes to Valhalla but American B-17s.

Program cover illustration of Arturo Toscanini’s hands conducting. Text printed ontop of the hands says “Toscanini directs for the Red Cross”.
See the whole program in the Digital Archives

April 1, 2020

In 1969, after Leonard Bernstein announced that he would step down as Music Director, the New York Philharmonic decided to offer the post to Pierre Boulez at the end of a three-week guest engagement that spring. What better way to do it than at an intimate luncheon with a few key board members? Schedules being tricky with in-demand artists, Managing Director Carlos Moseley set up the meeting without thinking of the date — April 1.

Though Moseley was perfectly serious, sharp-witted Boulez, never one to be fooled, assumed the whole thing was a joke. He always remembered the moment with a laugh.

Here is a memo from Moseley’s records documenting the luncheon invites, and later press clippings from when Boulez was announced as the new Music Director.

Office memo detailing invited guests to a luncheon on April 1, 1969.
Various news clippings announcing Pierre Boulez’s appointment as Music Director of the Philharmonic, June 1969.
Read more in the Digital Archives