#dailydocument from the Archives

posts from July 2020

July 31, 2020

The New York Philharmonic has a history of impressively adventurous touring, ranging from Lebanon to Argentina – but until relatively late in the orchestra's existence, two major nations remained untouched: the Great Southern Lands, Australia and New Zealand. In the summer of '74, Bernstein's Philharmonic made its one and only leap Down Under, braving the day-long flight to southern hemisphere winter for a highly successful Pacific tour. Here's a photo of orchestra members on a day off in Seppeltsfield Vineyard, sampling the delights of the Barossa Valley.

Photograph of orchestra members at Seppeltsfield Vineyard in Australia in 1974.
View in the Digital Archives

July 30, 2020

On this day in 1965 Duke Ellington made his Philharmonic conducting debut at the French-American Festival, a week-long celebration of French and American music sponsored by the French government. Ellington had appeared with the New York Philharmonic many times before, but never as a conductor. On this occasion he premiered his composition The Golden Broom and The Green Apple. See the program here.

Poster for the 1965 French-American Festival
View in the Digital Archives

July 29, 2020

On this day in 1982 the New York Philharmonic performed in the White House Rose Garden in honor of Indira Gandhi, prime minister of India. This was her third official visit to the United States, and she visited New York City, Los Angeles, and Honolulu along with Washington, D.C. The performance was conducted by Zubin Mehta and included works by Handel, Mozart, Bruch, Gershwin, and Beethoven. See the program here.

Photo of President Reagan, Zubin Mehta, Nancy Reagan, and Indira Gandhi with the New York Philharmonic.
View in the Digital Archives

July 28, 2020

279 years ago, Antonio Vivaldi, the famous Red Priest of the Italian Baroque, passed away during a warm Viennese summer night. To celebrate the frequent appearance of his compositions with the New York Philharmonic (and to honor the current weather) let's take a closer look at the score for one of his violin concerti, "Summer," RV 315, from the Four Seasons. It's easy to see which passage caused then-concertmaster, John Corigliano, Sr., the most grief — oi vey indeed! We're sure many violinists have had a similar reaction to this tricky sequence of arpeggios.

Close-up of the score for Summer from Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
View in the Digital Archives

July 24, 2020

In 1971 the Philharmonic began a concert series called "Prospective Encounters 7-12" featuring chamber music by contemporary composers. The "7-12" in the name referred to the time of the concert -- from 7 p.m. to midnight. The night would consist of the performance, meetings with the composers, and discussions between the audience, composer, conductor, and musicians. These "Encounters" allowed audiences to become actively involved in the music. Pieces were short so that they could be played again if necessary. This series was started by Pierre Boulez in his first year with the Philharmonic, and it lasted till 1978.

In this photo Maestro Boulez addresses the "Prospective Encounters" audience at the Public Theater on Oct. 1, 1971. See that night's program here.

Black-and-white photo of Pierre Boulez speaking to an audience in 1971.
View in the Digital Archives

July 23, 2020

To celebrate Major League Baseball's #OpeningDay we take a look back at the Orchestra's own softball team, the New York Philharmonic Penguins. The team was founded by Nick Webster and percussionist Walter Rosenberger in 1968. Here is former Music Director Zubin Mehta in September 1981, at bat against the San Francisco Symphony.

Color photo of Zubin Mehta at bat during a softball game.
See more photos from Penguins games in the Digital Archives

July 22, 2020

In April, 1936, Arturo Toscanini performed his last concert as the New York Philharmonic's Music Director before traveling to Europe to conduct at the Salzburg Festival for six weeks. Before the festival, however, Toscanini learned that the Austrian government intended to broadcast his concerts over German radio to Nazi Germany. Toscanini was vocal in his opposition to the Nazi regime, and threatened to cancel the concerts if the broadcasts took place. The Austrians decided to cancel the broadcasts instead. This document is signed by hundreds of New York musicians, applauding Toscanini for his protest.

This copy of the document was given to the Archives in 2019, courtesy of the descendant of a Philharmonic musician who signed it.

Copy of a 1936 letter to Toscanini signed by New York musicians.
View in the Digital Archives

July 21, 2020

Today we celebrate the 100th birthday of renowned violinist and Philharmonic family member Isaac Stern. "Prince Isaac," as Leonard Bernstein dubbed him on his 60th birthday, performed over 100 times with the orchestra from the 1940s through the 1990s. He was undoubtedly was one of the 20th century's most influential artists.

Here the two maestros sit in a Manhattan recording studio for a session on Bernstein's Serenade, after Plato's Symposium in 1956. The work, which LB was known to call his best, was premiered by Isaac Stern.

Black-and-white photo of Leonard Bernstein and Isaac Stern.
View in the Digital Archives

July 20, 2020

Orchestras, understandably, tend to emphasize the musical aspects of any given performance – but today, we focus on the visual! Unlike the Met, the Philharmonic doesn't have a costume department, requiring executive assistant Mrs. Clara Simons to do some multitasking. These detailed notes, jotted down during a fitting for a 1966 production of Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex, show that sometimes, the cover of the book is just as important as the book itself.

Detail of handwritten notes for a costume fitting.
View in the Digital Archives

July 17, 2020

The New York Philharmonic helped open the 1939 New York World's Fair, performing the inaugural concert at the Hall of Music at the fairgrounds in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park. See the program here.

The Fair's theme was the forward-looking "World of Tomorrow," and the Hall of Music showcased the best in American music, along with music and dancing from around the world. The Philharmonic performed at the Hall six times during the Fair and held five special concerts at Carnegie Hall tied to the Fair.

Flyer for the inaugural concert for the 1939 New York World's Fair.
View in the Digital Archives

July 16, 2020

In 1976 Queen Elizabeth II visited New York for the second time. Part of the reason for her visit was the U.S. Bicentennial. She took in many of the sights, which included a visit to Lincoln Center. Here's the queen on a tour outside Philharmonic Hall with Philharmonic and Lincoln Center Chair Amyas Ames. (📷: Susanne Faulkner Stevens)

Photo of Queen Elizabeth II with Philharmonic Chair Amyas Ames outside Philharmonic Hall.
View in the Digital Archives

July 15, 2020

New York is not the only city with beloved summertime music traditions! The Hollywood Bowl, an outdoor venue carved into the hillside, has been a Los Angeles staple since 1922. The Bowl is home to the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the LA Phil in the summer, but it has and continues to host a variety of musical acts, from The Beatles to the New York Philharmonic.

In 1963, the New York Philharmonic, with Leonard Bernstein and soloists Jascha Heifetz and Gregor Piatigorsky, sold out the 17,500-seat venue. In this photo Philharmonic staff smile from underneath the marquee.

Philharmonic staff members pose in front of a Hollywood Bowl sign indicating a sold-out performance.
View in the Digital Archives

July 14, 2020

Hobbies of Philharmonic musicians-past have ranged from chess to poker to book-binding, but rarely have they been as formal as the Philharmonic-Symphony Painters Club, a group of visual artists that were given their own art show at their Carnegie Hall club room in 1949. The members encouraged each other, collectively purchasing paints, brushes and canvases. Scenes by Harold Gombert (Principal Oboe), Michael de Stefano (Violin), Fred Zimmerman (bass), and Frank Gullino (assoc. Concertmaster) can be seen here.

Portion of a 1949 clipping about the Painters Club.
View Painters Club documents in the Digital Archives

July 13, 2020

Bad reviews — particularly for new compositions — are to be expected from time to time, but it's hard to beat this pan from New York Post critic Samuel Chotzinoff on the 1940 world premiere of Benjamin Britten's Violin Concerto. He not only questions the artistic integrity of the piece, but suggests that it might genuinely threaten the delicate diplomatic relations between wartime England and America — the Concerto that (might have) launched a thousand ships.

Eighty years later, this work has become a standard for many great violinists and orchestras.

Newspaper clipping from the New York Post.
View this scrapbook in the Digital Archives

July 2, 2020

This week in 1922 the Philharmonic participated for the first time in the Lewisohn Stadium's summer concert series. Participation in these concerts was initiated by Minnie Guggenheimer, a longtime supporter and board member of the NY Phil. Minnie worked hard to keep ticket prices low—as little as 25¢—a way for all New Yorkers to hear the Philharmonic after the regular Carnegie Hall season. Between her work for the concerts and her outgoing personality, Minnie became well known and loved by audience members.

Find out about Minnie, this summer tradition, and how it morphed into the free Concerts in the Parks in this online exhibit.

Black-and-white photo of Minnie Guggenheimer at Lewisohn Stadium circa 1960.
View this photo in the Digital Archives