#dailydocument from the Archives

posts from May 2020

May 29, 2020

#OTD in 1963, the New York Philharmonic held its first Promenade, a summer concert series developed by guest conductor Andre Kostelanetz. The newly completed Philharmonic Hall, now David Geffen Hall, was the first concert venue in New York City with air conditioning, bolstering an innovation in summer programming. The seat rows were replaced with round tables and the music was selected thematically.

This first Promenade featured works by American composers, the centerpiece of which was A Lincoln Portrait by Aaron Copland. Kostelanetz himself commissioned this work in 1942, and he began a tradition of asking the narrators to autograph his score after each performance.

Explore these autographs and the narrators who brought Copland's work to life, from Marian Anderson to Joe Torre.

Open inside cover of score, containing program notes and many signatures on the right side
See more in a special Digital Archives exhibit

May 27, 2020

Did you know: the first long-playing (LP) record featured the New York Philharmonic?

This record of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, released by Columbia Records in 1948, was the very first LP. The LP was thinner and could hold more music than 78-rpm records.

Learn more about this LP from the Library of Congress

May 26, 2020

Happy birthday to composer/conductor Eugene Goossens, born on this day in 1893! Goossens conducted the New York Philharmonic and the New York Symphony Society many times, and his compositions were performed by our Orchestra under direction of Arturo Toscanini, Ernest Schelling, and John Barbirolli.

Here is an advertisement for the 1941 Stadium Concert Season, where Goossens conducted four concerts.

A blue posted advertising the 1941 Stadium Concerts
Explore these programs in the Digital Archives

May 22, 2020

Bert Bial was a man of many talents. A musician by trade, he joined the New York Philharmonic in 1957 and performed with us for 38 years on two instruments, bassoon and contrabassoon. While his musical talent got him a seat in the Orchestra, his love of photography granted him another position as official photographer. In New York and on tour around the world, Bert brought his bassoon, his contrabassoon, and his camera to rehearsals and concerts, documenting both everyday moments and historic milestones. We are deeply sorry to hear of Bert's passing — he will live on in the archives through his beautiful photographs.

View highlights from Bert's photographs here.

Bert Bial, right, snaps a shot of his string-playing colleagues before rehearsal starts.
Bert Bial, right, snaps a shot of his string-playing colleagues before rehearsal starts.

May 21, 2020

One of the cities we planned to tour this month was Amsterdam, home of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra as well as New York Philharmonic Music Director Jaap van Zweden and his wife Aaltje, who are both living there during the pandemic. The Philharmonic has compiled a Love Letter to Amsterdam which highlights some of our history in this city.

Explore this autographed portrait of the Concertgebouw Orchestra and other treasures from Amsterdam here.

A portrait of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, autographed by the musicians and conductor Eduard van Beinum

May 20, 2020

If you're feeling some wanderlust today, make room in your schedule for a quick jaunt through Europe with the New York Philharmonic! No plane ticket necessary — just check out our digital exhibit on Google Arts & Culture. We're celebrating the Philharmonic's touring history in the six cities we would have visited this month, if not for the pandemic.

Narrations in the exhibit delivered by — who else? — musicians of the New York Philharmonic themselves!

Map of Europe from the early 20th century
Explore on Google Arts & Culture

May 19, 2020

Leonard Bernstein conducted the New York Philharmonic Premiere of his Serenade (after Plato’s Symposium) on July 15, 1965, with violinist Zino Francescatti, as part of the Orchestra’s 1965 French-American Festival. The concert featured all works by Bernstein, including The Age of Anxiety and the World Premiere of Chichester Psalms.

The program notes for this performance featured Bernstein’s commentary on the work, from a summary of Plato’s dialogue, as well as a brief analysis of his own music. You can enjoy reading them while listening to a 2002 Philharmonic performance of this work, with then Music Director Kurt Masur and then Concertmaster Glenn Dicterow, added this week to NY Phil Plays On.

Program notes for Bernstein's Serenade
See the full program in the Digital Archives

May 15, 2020

This video was filmed on a home-movie camera by Harry Glantz, New York Philharmonic Principal Trumpet (1919-1942) during the Orchestra’s first tour to Europe in 1930. The historic tour brought America’s first orchestra to Paris, Zurich, Milan, Turin, Rome, Florence, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Leipzig, Dresden, Berlin, Brussels, and London. See programs from the tour here.

The 16mm black-and-white films show Toscanini, his family, the musicians, and their families aboard ships and trains. Below is just an image taken from the video, but you can watch the entire video in the Digital Archives here.

Toscanini, right, smirks and reaches out the window of a train to pat a woman's head. Other Philharmonic musicians and staff smile.
Toscanini, right, goofs off in front of the camera before their train departs to Brussels. Watch the full video in the Digital Archives.

May 13, 2020

Planes, trains, and automobiles — the New York Philharmonic has learned the costs and benefits of every mode of transportation on tours. This 1949 feature from The Saturday Evening Post details some shenanigans and blunders that happen on tour with the Orchestra, from simple miscalculations (the trains run on standard time but the concerts and rehearsals are on local time) to the ridiculous (some musicians blow the fuses on a train with their electric kettles and coffee pots).

Philharmonic musicians playing chess, preparing for tour
Read the full article in the Digital Archives

May 12, 2020

Every part is important in an orchestra: New York Philharmonic musicians work hard to perform each passage not only with the correct notes and rhythms, but also the right tone, color, and je ne sais quoi that the conductor asks requests. Check out the marked part for Fauré’s Pelléas et Mélisande suite from one of our dedicated harpists, Myor Rosen, who used this music for performances led by George Szell, Charles Munch, Lorin Maazel, and Aaron Copland.

A happy birthday to the composer Gabriel Urbain Fauré, born on this day in 1845.

Marked harp part Marked harp part
View the full harp part in the Digital Archives

May 11, 2020

Newly released today on NY Phil Plays On, enjoy the New York Philharmonic and then Music Director Alan Gilbert in a 2015 performance of Stravinsky's Petrushka!

In 1925, with his music already familiar to New York audiences, Stravinsky began his first tour of the US, which included his American debut with the Philharmonic. Orchestra management spearheaded the tour, organizing his appearances around the country, with stops in Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Chicago. Stravinsky first conducted concerts with the Philharmonic in January featuring all his own works, including Petrushka.

Igor Stravinsky, a New York Philharmonic program, and Stravinsky's signed contract from 1925
Explore the Digital Archives for more documents and Stravinsky's signed contract

May 8, 2020

#OTD in 1901 Andrew Carnegie was elected President of the New York Philharmonic.

Take a look at today’s #dailydocument: the minutes from the Philharmonic’s annual meeting when the election took place. Nobody has penmanship like this anymore!

Lined paper with neat cursive writing on it
Read more in the Digital Archives. Once in the book reader, click the button in the bottom right corner to view a transcript.

May 7, 2020

The New York Philharmonic hosted Richard Strauss in his first conducting appearances in the United States in 1904. He led two programs of mostly his own works, including several songs performed by baritone David Bispham, as well as Death and Transfiguration.

Reviews of this concert were mixed; one critic said it was a commendable performance while others found the program uninteresting. Those who were bored with the love scene from Feuersnot may have felt some irony — a small fire broke out in a storage room during the concert and smoke began sifting into the auditorium!

Articles cut out from 1904 newspapers
Read more reviews in the Digital Archives

Join us on Facebook tonight at 7:30 pm EDT to watch Renée Fleming join the Philharmonic and then Music Director Kurt Masur in songs by Strauss, from a 1997 Live from Lincoln Center broadcast.

May 5, 2020

Check out the "incoming class" of 1964 which included our longest-serving and beloved principal cellist, Lorne Munroe. Leonard Bernstein lured Munroe up from Philadelphia where he performed for 13 years with Eugene Ormandy. Munroe went on to perform with the Philharmonic for 32 seasons, delighting our audiences in over 150 solo appearances.

We are sorry to hear of his passing this week — many in our orchestra family remember him fondly.

Playbill article
Read more in the Digital Archives

May 4, 2020

#OTD in 1920 (100 years ago!) Walter Damrosch and the New York Symphony (which merged with the New York Philharmonic in 1928) began their tour of Europe at the Théâtre National de l'Opéra in Paris. This was the first European tour EVER undertaken by any American symphony orchestra.

Two years earlier, Damrosch traveled to France to lead an orchestra of elderly and unemployed French musicians at American Army camps. To thank him for his services, the French government personally invited Damrosch to bring his orchestra to France.

New York Symphony program from 1920
Read more in the Digital Archives

May 1, 2020

Today is the last day of the New York Philharmonic’s Mahler in New York Digital Festival, so we hope you have enjoyed it as much as we have! We’re going to finish it up with one more Mahler #dailydocument: Leonard Bernstein’s score for Mahler’s Ninth Symphony.

Bernstein wrote many wonderful and interesting annotations in his score; it reveals not only his interpretation of the music but also indications of what he believes Mahler was trying to achieve intellectually. You can explore this score while enjoying Alan Gilbert's interpretation on Soundcloud.

The first page of Leonard Bernstein's Mahler Symphony No. 9 score.
See the entire score in the Digital Archives