At first blush, a marriage between the New York Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall seemed like a good idea to both. But the relationship ended yesterday (Oct. 7) before a single note sounded. The nation’s oldest orchestra and its most fabled concert hall announced they would not merge, four months after the bold idea was born.
That means the Philharmonic will remain in its Avery Fisher Hall home at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
In a statement, the organizations said each was better off on its own. “It is clear that each institution has unique, undeniable core values, which could have been compromised,” the statement said.
Reasons for the proposed move included the superb acoustics at Carnegie Hall, the Philharmonic’s former home, and the cost of renovating Fisher Hall — as much as $400 million — at a time when arts organizations nationwide face a fund-raising pinch.
The planned merger threw Lincoln Center’s programming into turmoil. Within three years, minus the Philharmonic, the world’s largest arts complex would have had a 2,738-seat hall to fill.
“We’re delighted they’re back,” Lincoln Center President Reynold Levy said. “Now we will resume conversations with them.” He said that after the Philharmonic announced its proposed departure, Lincoln Center started creating possible alternative programs in the orchestra’s absence.
As a result, “we believe we’ve discovered some new and innovative ways to serve the public” — ideas Levy said could be considered in Lincoln Center’s joint planning with the Philharmonic. He wouldn’t elaborate.
Sanford I. Weill, chairman of Carnegie Hall, said in a statement that he has “no doubt that this is a win-win situation for both institutions.”
The Philharmonic’s executive director, Zarin Mehta, said the main reason the merger did not succeed is that Carnegie Hall could not accommodate the number of concerts the orchestra plays each season, between 120 and 130. “It was better to look at this in the face and say, `This doesn’t work,'” Mehta said. He said the decision was approved unanimously at a meeting of the Philharmonic board.
Still, said Philharmonic Chairman Paul Guenther, the exhaustive talks that went into the merger plans produced “a deeper and richer understanding of each other’s institutions.”
The Philharmonic resided at Carnegie Hall from the hall’s inception in 1891 until 1962, when it moved to the then-newly opened Lincoln Center, a short walk up Broadway. Now, it’s back to planning the Philharmonic’s future at Lincoln Center.
In the current financial pinch, any massive rebuilding of Avery Fisher Hall “will have to wait,” Mehta said. And although Lincoln Center officials “were upset” by the proposed move, Mehta said, “we’ll have to work together.”
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