The New York Philharmonic recently
released a fairly extensive cache
of archives,as part of an effort to catalog the orchestra's history
online. The material covers the Bernstein years, dating, as The New York Times' Daniel J. Wakin
notes, from "when he made his last-minute debut as a substitute [in 1943] ... to 1970, the year after his formal tenure ended." It's the first segment of historical documents
to be released online and the material
showcases a more personal side to the classical institution; a telegram about
a cow given
as a gift to a well-loved conductor, or Leonard Bernstein's marked copy
of a score of Mahler's ninth symphony. The documents also detail the
Philharmonic's scramble to interview African-American musicians after
claims of racial discrimination in 1969. Below we've compiled an early
look at some of the highlights from the Philharmonic's vaults.
- Defining a Legacy Thus does Daniel J. Wakin
at the New York Times describe the digitalization effort. "It fits into the Philharmonic’s strategy of
projecting itself as the Orchestra With History, a venerable institution
that stands apart even if it does not have a Tanglewood, like the Boston Symphony Orchestra; a great hall, since it left Carnegie; or the tradition of a characteristic sound, like the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony."
The International Era [1943-1970] was selected for several reasons. It
is the time when the United States becomes a world power and New York
City its cultural capital; when the New York Philharmonic emerges as a
worldwide symbol of this new cultural position. In the broader social
and civic realm, it is when Government begins funding the arts, when
women join the Orchestra, when the Philharmonic opens Lincoln Center for
the Performing Arts, when the Orchestra musicians win 52-week
contracts, when television becomes main stream and the Long Playing
record is invented, and it is the time of Leonard Bernstein’s
- Not Immune From Social Tensions In response to a
discrimination lawsuit brought against the orchestra in 1969 by two
black musicians (the orchestra was eventually found not guilty of
discrimination), the Philharmonic went on a search for more diverse
players. "In the next months, the Philharmonic contacted music schools,
the Ford Foundation
and people in the music industry in an almost frantic search for black
candidates. It compiled a seven-page list of 'Negro Musicians' and
summoned several in for special auditions," Wakin says in the Times'
article, noting that orchestra at the time had one black member, and
currently has none.
- A Death in the Orchestra On Artsbeat, Wakin writes
of some notable archive moments he's looked through, such as the "numerous telegrams and
letters between the conductor Guido Cantelli and the orchestra's
managing director Bruno Zirato, many in an affectionate and effusive
Italian. Cantelli," he explains, "was a major talent, one of the orchestra’s favorite
guest conductors and a potential future music director. On Nov. 24,
1956, the maestro died in a plane crash. He was 36. Zirato immediately
sent an anguished telegram to Cantelli’s widow, Iris: 'Our dear dear Iris, with a broken heart we weep with you, begging dear God to give you courage.'"
You For The Cow As a Times commenter points out, The Philharmonic's Board of Directors gave Philharmonic conductor Artur Rodzinski a cow for his birthday one year. Rodzinksi sent back a telegram requesting the message be read to the board: "This has been my happiest birthday in years and you
members of the board of directors have made it so by your gracious
thoughts in presenting me with such a wonderful gift as Tulip. She is
the tangible evidence of greatness of thought upon your part and she
will be an ever constant reminder of your kindness. We can scarcely wait
to see her again. From the depth of our hearts we say thank you for
- You Promised Me! Rodinski says, writing
an angry letter someone at the Polish Embassy: "I am terribly
distressed about the ticket sale for our Polish concerts for which you
told me that there is not the slightest doubt that they will be sold
out. There are at least six hundred tickets left for tomorrow night and
almost as many for Friday afternoon."
- Do Not Give Out Our Phone Number, Mrs. Rodzinski requests in a memo.
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