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Thread: New York Philharmonic Agrees to Move to Carnegie Hall

  1. #1

    Default New York Philharmonic Agrees to Move to Carnegie Hall

    June 2, 2003

    New York Philharmonic Agrees to Move to Carnegie Hall

    By RALPH BLUMENTHAL and ROBIN POGREBIN

    In a surprising cultural merger, the New York Philharmonic has agreed to move to Carnegie Hall, leaving Lincoln Center, officials of the orchestra and the hall said yesterday. The move back to Carnegie Hall, where the orchestra had historically resided on West 57th Street, could come as soon as 2006, more than 40 years after it left and became an anchor of Lincoln Center.

    "There's no reason why it shouldn't be a done deal," said Sanford I. Weill, chairman of Carnegie Hall. "I've worked on a lot of mergers, and I've never seen a fit as perfect as this."

    The move would give Carnegie Hall the oldest orchestra in the country and deprive Lincoln Center of the first cultural institution established there. For the Philharmonic, going to Carnegie Hall means it can exchange the flawed acoustics of Avery Fisher Hall for a stage of undisputed sound quality, without having to foot the bill for a costly renovation. It would also turn the orchestra, now led by Lorin Maazel, from a rent-paying tenant into a managing partner.

    "We've got two major institutions — one is the greatest hall in the world, the other is the greatest orchestra in the world," said Zarin Mehta, the Philharmonic's executive director. "This merger is to strengthen our respective positions."

    The plan has jolted Lincoln Center. Its chairman, Bruce Crawford, and its president, Reynold Levy, said they were taken aback when told on Thursday of the planned switch. It leaves them no long-term occupant for Avery Fisher Hall, where the orchestra has been based since 1962. But it also affords them opportunities to reshape the performing arts scene for decades to come.

    Martin E. Segal, a chairman emeritus of Lincoln Center, voiced outrage at the prospect that the arts campus would lose its original tenant and called the merger "a form of cultural cannibalism."

    Paul B. Guenther, chairman of the Philharmonic, responded that "it was not a question of luring the Philharmonic to Carnegie Hall, but of the Philharmonic doing what is best for its long-term interests."

    In light of a nationwide decline in advance ticket sales, the Philharmonic's subscription audience would also give Carnegie Hall a stable revenue stream. At a time when orchestras around the country are succumbing to dire financial pressures, Mr. Weill, chairman of Citigroup and one of the nation's leading philanthropists, and Mr. Guenther, former president of the Paine Webber Group Inc., said the proposed merger would make powerful financial sense, giving the new entity a combined endowment of about $350 million.

    Carnegie Hall, owned by the city, has been running in the black, they said, and the Philharmonic this year had a slight deficit, under $1 million, after having operated profitably since the early 1990's. Both Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall have about 2,800 seats.

    The two executives confirmed the merger plan in joint telephone interviews yesterday. They said that in the last few days their executive committees had unanimously approved a merger of their boards and organizations and that they had held separate telephone consultations last night to advance the plans.

    Before the merger can happen, Mr. Guenther said, the Philharmonic's commitments to Lincoln Center must be fully assessed. Both boards would then need to approve the alliance formally.

    Mr. Weill said that he told Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg about the merger on Saturday and that "I think he thinks this is very good."

    Mr. Bloomberg could not be reached for comment last night. Kate D. Levin, the city's commissioner of cultural affairs, commended the merger. "There are a lot of opportunities here," she said.

    Carter Brey, the Philharmonic's principal cellist, called the move "the best news in the world."

    "I don't think there is a musician in the New York Philharmonic who would not love to be affiliated with Carnegie," he said.

    Mr. Weill and Mr. Guenther said that talks would continue this week to plan an expansion of Carnegie Hall's backstage space at an estimated cost of $10 million to $20 million — far less than the $100 million a consultant had projected — but that otherwise the hall, celebrated for its fine acoustics, would remain untouched. They said that the switch could probably not come before the 2006-7 season because of longstanding bookings by Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall, but that the Philharmonic would step up its appearances at Carnegie in the meantime.

    Reinstalling the 161-year-old orchestra in the hall where it presided from 1891 to 1962 would sharply curtail the availability of the famed stage to the world's leading ensembles, sending them in search of other sites, undoubtedly including Avery Fisher Hall, where the Philharmonic is now the lone regular tenant. Lincoln Center uses the theater for other programming when it is available.

    The relocation would also come as another prime tenant at Lincoln Center, the New York City Opera, is pursuing a move downtown. It has long been unhappy with the acoustics in the New York State Theater, which it shares with the New York City Ballet. Irwin Schneiderman, the chairman of City Opera, said the company would not be interested in moving into Avery Fisher. "It doesn't have the stage or the fly space that an opera house needs," he said.

    The orchestra's decision to pull out of discussions about reconstructing Avery Fisher Hall, at a cost of as much as $260 million, underlines the problems Lincoln Center faces as it grapples with even a scaled-down renovation project. The renovation was once put at $1.5 billion over a decade, and now has been reduced to $350 million over 12 years, not counting work on Avery Fisher.

    Mr. Crawford said the plan took him by surprise. "We knew what they described as low-level discussions had gone on a few months ago," he said. "I had been assured by the Philharmonic this was not a real option. I would have preferred a more collegial approach."

    Mr. Crawford said he was not aware that the Philharmonic had hired the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to study the cost and feasibility of a move to Carnegie Hall. The firm had been one of seven rejected for a redesign of Avery Fisher Hall last year.

    Mr. Levy, Lincoln Center's president, said: "Lincoln Center has been a great home to the New York Philharmonic. Avery Fisher Hall was built for the Philharmonic."

    But they and Beverly Sills, the center's previous chairwoman, said the orchestra's departure created opportunities for extended residencies by other orchestras and educational collaborations with the Juilliard School. "Close the door, open a window," Ms. Sills said.

    Mr. Crawford said the Metropolitan Opera's orchestra, which typically plays several engagements at Carnegie Hall, might like to establish a more substantial season at Avery Fisher. He said Lincoln Center's Great Performers series and its summer festival might also use Avery Fisher more.

    "We have this fabulous facility," Mr. Levy said. "We need to fix it up and aesthetically and acoustically improve it, but I have no doubt we can discharge our responsibility to the city and to the public."

    Many issues remain to be resolved. But Mr. Weill and Mr. Guenther dismissed the impediments as largely minor. "Leases never stopped anything good from happening," Mr. Weill said. Mr. Guenther said that a merger had attracted such powerful support, "I'd bet on it."

    They said that the planned administrative sharing, while unusual, would pose no problems. Mr. Mehta of the Philharmonic is to stay on to run the orchestral aspects, alongside Robert J. Harth, Carnegie Hall's executive and artistic director, who will run the house.

    Mr. Mehta said the Philharmonic, which pays its musicians 52 weeks a year, might take advantage of Carnegie Hall's two other stages, perhaps moving its chamber music from the 92nd Street Y. "The possibilities are endless," he said.


    Copyright 2003*The New York Times Company

  2. #2

    Default New York Philharmonic Agrees to Move to Carnegie Hall

    June 2, 2003

    Philharmonic Pact Raises Questions for Classical Music in New York City

    By ROBIN POGREBIN

    The merger agreement between the New York Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall raises some knotty questions for the future of classical music in New York. What would become of Carnegie Hall? More important, perhaps, what would be left of Lincoln Center?

    The Philharmonic's decision to leave comes on the heels of New York City Opera's proposal to leave Lincoln Center, too, for a new site at ground zero. Simultaneously, the weak economy has forced Lincoln Center's new management team to scale back plans drastically for the institution's redevelopment — a project now expected to cost less than a third of the $1.5 billion originally projected.

    The defection of the Philharmonic is just the latest in a string of high-profile blows to Lincoln Center since its redevelopment was first announced in 1999. The project has been plagued by tensions among the 11 participating groups, which include the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet and Lincoln Center Theater.

    Lincoln Center, the country's leading performing arts institution, is now at an important crossroads in its 48-year history. Is there still a place for a centralized classical arts center? With two of its key constituent groups jumping ship, should Lincoln Center consider changing course? Does the combining of two institutions like the Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall leave the cultural landscape with fewer options, or more?

    In many ways, the decision to absorb the Philharmonic seems to be a victory for Carnegie Hall, which would regain the prestigious orchestra it lost to Lincoln Center in 1962. Carnegie also would get a stable resident and built-in subscriptions at a time when arts groups nationwide are struggling to fill their seats.

    But Carnegie Hall would also be sacrificing some independence. First, its administration and board would have to clear decisions with the Philharmonic. And second, with the Philharmonic's busy season of some 125 performances a year at its home base, Carnegie Hall would have difficulty providing audiences the eclectic mix of programming that currently ranges from the Orchestra of St. Luke's to the JVC Jazz Festival to the New York Pops.

    Robert J. Harth, the executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, said that with the addition this autumn of a third stage, Judy and Arthur Zankel Hall, the roster of events would remain varied. "We've actually increased our capacity by half," he said. "So you'll see a tremendous variety of music on all three stages."

    Some arts executives suggest that by taking in the Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall seems to be regressing rather than trying to develop more risky fare. Mr. Harth disagreed. "What we have here is an opportunity to develop a highly inventive new kind of musical organization that's going to reflect forward thinking and not a return to the past," he said.

    The merger agreement also seems a victory for the Philharmonic. The orchestra would regain a historic hall with excellent acoustics. It also would gain more independence, to the extent that it would get out from under Lincoln Center and become a managing partner.

    But the Philharmonic has also had it pretty good at Lincoln Center, with first claim on Avery Fisher Hall and a loyal audience. Moreover, given Sanford I. Weill's reputation as a strong chairman of Carnegie, the management structure would hold potential for problems.

    While Lincoln Center would have to devote considerable resources to filling Avery Fisher Hall, the Philharmonic's departure would also present an artistic opportunity. The Philharmonic has long been criticized for playing it safe with a classical repertory and establishment conductors, like the current music director, Lorin Maazel.

    Lincoln Center could now fill the prime performance dates typically spoken for by the Philharmonic with its own programming. Up to now, Great Performers, Mostly Mozart and the Lincoln Center Festival, Lincoln Center's presenting organizations, have had to work around the Philharmonic's schedule and even to use stages off campus.

    Lincoln Center could now open its doors to more outside performers. "One of the things missing from Lincoln Center has been the ability to show a great amount of guest work, because the permanent tenants take up so much of the time," said Michael M. Kaiser, the president of the Kennedy Center in Washington. "Maybe it will allow for more of a balance between visiting performers and the home team."

    If City Opera goes ahead with its plan to leave the New York State Theater, which it shares with the New York City Ballet, the company is expected to sever its ties to Lincoln Center — unlike Jazz at Lincoln Center, which will remain linked to its new location in Columbus Circle. "If we go downtown, it would be very hard to even pretend there's an affiliation," said Irwin Schneiderman, the chairman of City Opera.

    Whether the Philharmonic's merger with Carnegie Hall is ultimately good or bad for Lincoln Center, the institution's executives acknowledge that it signals a new chapter.

    "Times have changed, a half century has passed and we have to do business somewhat differently," said Bruce Crawford, Lincoln Center's chairman. "But we still can be and should be the world's greatest performing arts center."


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  3. #3

    Default New York Philharmonic Agrees to Move to Carnegie Hall

    At the NY Times radio station this morning, it was mentioned that because of the NY Philharmonic's Lincoln Center schedule, foreign orchestras book at Carnegie. Now Carnegie won't have as many dates available - this could be an oportunity for Lincoln Center.

  4. #4

    Default New York Philharmonic Agrees to Move to Carnegie Hall

    June 3, 2003

    A New Twist at Lincoln Center

    When Lincoln Center first began mapping its renovation a few years ago, its ambitious objectives — and an initial price tag of $1.5 billion — seemed to guarantee that its resident artistic organizations would all be staying put. Even the New York City Opera, long unhappy at the New York State Theater, was talking about building a new hall on campus. But the Metropolitan Opera opposed the idea of a new theater for City Opera, and ever since 9/11 the campuswide renovation has been steadily scaled back. Now the New York Philharmonic, one of the original occupants of Lincoln Center, intends to move to Carnegie Hall as soon as scheduling commitments allow, perhaps as soon as the 2006-2007 season.

    For the Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall, the move makes perfect sense, historically, acoustically and financially. After all, Carnegie Hall was the Philharmonic's home from 1891 to 1962, when it moved to what was then called Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center. That hall has had a long, complicated history of acoustical problems, even after its renovation in 1976. The Philharmonic would certainly have faced a period of exile in the coming years while a new auditorium was being constructed inside Avery Fisher Hall. Instead of gambling on the results of that reconstruction, the Philharmonic will be able to perform in an acoustically superb space, sharing its own financial strength with the strength of Carnegie Hall. Lincoln Center was built in part to free institutions like the Philharmonic from aging concert halls. But the attraction of excellent acoustics never ages.

    For Lincoln Center, the outlook is more mixed. It loses a principal tenant and artistic member. Though the Philharmonic's departure could make financing a new auditorium for Avery Fisher Hall even harder, it also opens the way for new financing for new programming as well. To some, the departure calls into question the very logic of a centralized cultural campus, which has seemed like a given for much of Lincoln Center's history. And yet it offers the opportunity to reinvent that logic.

    This major shift, together with City Opera's probable move to Lower Manhattan, creates unusual possibilities. To begin with, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center are likely to swap roles, at least in part. Carnegie Hall gets the stability of the Philharmonic's schedule, but Lincoln Center will now have the freedom to bring in more guest orchestras and performers to teach and reside in New York. The Metropolitan Opera orchestra may well expand its schedule. Lincoln Center's own programming could take a more youthful, more experimental turn.

    To many observers over the past few years, it has often seemed as if Lincoln Center was too busy competing with itself and that it had lost sight of its larger public mission. It was one thing for City Opera to think about leaving. It is something altogether different when the Philharmonic packs up. The charmed circle has been broken. The promise of Lincoln Center is as great as it has ever been. But it will take skill and adroitness, as well as a commitment to new possibilities, to fulfill that promise.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  5. #5

    Default New York Philharmonic Agrees to Move to Carnegie Hall

    June 8, 2003

    How the Arts Transformed an Urban Landscape

    By HILARY M. BALLON

    The announcement last week that the New York Philharmonic would leave its home in Lincoln Center to return to the superior acoustics of Carnegie Hall reignited longstanding criticism of the center's design. "Lincoln Center is planned on the idiotic assumption that the natural neighbor of a hall is another hall," Jane Jacobs commented in 1958, when designs were in development.

    The argument usually goes that because Lincoln Center concentrates performing arts institutions on a 13-acre superblock, their stimulative effects are restricted and don't extend beyond a self-contained area. The city fabric would have been better served if these cultural institutions were dispersed, spreading improvements through many different neighborhoods.

    In general, streets with many uses are preferable to single-use sites. But Lincoln Center ranks as one of the major success stories of large-scale urban renewal.

    Because of its impact on New York, and its role as a model for cities across the country, it is easy today to underestimate the boldness of the vision that created Lincoln Center. It was presented by Robert Moses in 1955, in his role as chairman of the Committee on Slum Clearance. At that time, New York's performing arts institutions lacked state-of-the-art facilities. Growth was stymied by, among other things, high real estate values. Because the arts were considered outside the proper sphere of government activity, the needs and importance of the performing arts were simply not understood as an urban issue. Their potential as agents of urban change was not recognized.

    That changed when Moses had the radical idea of using a cultural center to energize urban redevelopment. By clustering several related institutions, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts was intended to establish New York's pre-eminence as a cultural center while improving a large part of the city. John D. Rockefeller 3rd, founding president of the center, described it as "a new kind of city therapy." He explained, "We believe that this is the time for a more active form of help — a time for art." This approach to urban renewal was tested at Lincoln Center — and it worked.

    The concentration of the arts at Lincoln Center had a catalytic effect that changed the character of the neighborhood. Large audiences in the performances translated into increased pedestrian traffic, bringing customers to neighboring shops and restaurants. And because there were far fewer parking spaces than seats, many audience members who drove had to park elsewhere and walk to the theaters.

    Lincoln Center had a mission defined grandly as the "trilogy of education, creative scholarship and performance." It included a high school, a conservatory, a university, student housing, rehearsal studios, a library, a museum, a park and a band shell in addition to the various performance spaces. This mix drew a residential population, which supported more retail activities.

    Even at times of strong anti-urban sentiment, Lincoln Center gave tourists and suburbanites a reason to visit New York. While important planners of the 1960's like Victor Gruen cited the suburban shopping mall as the paradigm of complex community planning, Lincoln Center introduced an alternative model of integrated urban planning. It combined transportation, pedestrian circulation, public space and mixed uses in a large-scale renewal plan. The television studios, movie theaters, restaurants, shops and apartment buildings that now surround the space demonstrate its beneficial spillover effects.

    Lincoln Center gave New York another scarce resource: a public square. Though the city's grid plan incorporated a few residential squares, it made no allowances for monumental buildings or civic squares. The plaza at Rockefeller Center was an exception — and a reference point for the performance arts center. But at Lincoln Center the designers rejected an initial plan that buried the open space inside the superblock, like at Rockefeller Center. Instead, they connected the expanse of the plaza to the street, at Broadway.

    The theaters' glass facades and outdoor promenades were designed as gestures to embrace the public space. Elevated a few steps above street level, the plaza has a sense of grandeur unique among the city's public spaces. It is part of a processional path that extends from street to theater. But the plaza also has the qualities of an well-proportioned outdoor room. In a triumph of urban design, the plaza actually surpasses the quality of the buildings.

    Some insist that the plaza doesn't compensate for the forbidding impact of the center's blank walls on adjacent streets. But despite these and other shortcomings, Lincoln Center has arguably improved New York. True, those changes started with the wrenching displacement of nearly 1,700 families and 380 businesses. But it is legitimate to differentiate the vision and impact of Lincoln Center from the urban renewal tactics used by Moses. Had a performing arts compound failed to materialize, Moses would have redeveloped the area anyway, according to a surely less enlightened plan.

    Moses is now widely regarded as the antihero of modern planning, but his approach to urban renewal at Lincoln Center was bold and influential. Lincoln Center embodies the proposition that the arts are an indispensable element of good urbanism. From the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris to the Guggenheim Museum at Bilbao, Spain, it has proven a valid and enduring idea.

    Hilary M. Ballon, the chairman of the department of art history and archaeology at Columbia University, is the author of "New York's Pennsylvania Stations."

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  6. #6

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    October 8, 2003

    Carnegie Abandons Merger Discussions With Philharmonic

    By ROBIN POGREBIN

    The New York Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall announced yesterday that they had abandoned their plan to merge in 2006, attributing the collapse to irresolvable conflicts over which organization would dominate performance time.

    The decision scuttled a deal, struck in June, that would have united two of New York City's most powerful cultural institutions and significantly reshaped the city's classical musical landscape. Instead, the Philharmonic will remain at Lincoln Center, its home since 1962.

    Rumors that the deal was unraveling had been circulating after weeks of growing doubts about whether the boards of these two proud organizations would ultimately sanction the move. The chairmen of the organizations, Sanford I. Weill of Carnegie Hall and Paul B. Guenther of the Philharmonic, said they had agreed to call off the merger in a telephone conversation yesterday morning.

    Those involved in the discussions said it was mainly the reluctance of Carnegie Hall to give up some artistic control that doomed the deal. Principally, Carnegie Hall was not prepared to turn over the bulk of its schedule to the Philharmonic. For its part, the Philharmonic had its own concerns; it did not want to be one of several orchestras competing for space and time at Carnegie Hall.

    Told of the decision by the chairmen, the boards of the organizations, in simultaneous afternoon meetings, voted to break off talks.

    "In the end we realized that, due to a variety or reasons, trying to get the two organizations together became insurmountable," Mr. Guenther said. "We decided to call it a day.

    "To try to force them together wouldn't have made any sense."

    Lincoln Center is expected to proceed with a renovation of Avery Fisher Hall costing as much as $250 million, though questions about fund-raising and finding a temporary home for the Philharmonic remain. The Philharmonic has long complained about the hall's acoustics. Lincoln Center had been pursuing a future of varied programming at Avery Fisher, and it had considered seeking damages against the Philharmonic for violating its constituency agreement. But yesterday the center's officials said they were pleased to have the orchestra remain.

    "If you were to capture our feelings about this, they could be succintly stated," said Reynold Levy, president of Lincoln Center. " `Welcome home. All is forgiven. We have a lot to discuss.' "

    Many of those involved in the talks said the seeds of the deal's disintegration had been present from the start. The merger was decided at the executive level, and only later were the full boards told, a move that left several trustees disgruntled and, crucially, most details unresolved.

    The merger's unraveling amounts to a setback for Mr. Weill, Carnegie Hall's chairman, people involved in the discussions said. A powerful investment banker, he is known for his success in closing deals and had hoped to add the merger to his list of achievements as he retired from the post of chief executive of Citigroup. The deal also promised to burnish his image as a philanthropist in the wake of an investigation of his company by New York State on conflict of interest accusations. The matter led to a settlement, but it forced Mr. Weill to withdraw his nomination to the board of the New York Stock Exchange.

    In an interview yesterday, Mr. Weill seemed to blame press attention in part for the deal's unraveling. "Usually I don't get involved in negotiations which are in the public eye," he said. "When something is disclosed prematurely, it's usually a bad sign."

    The merger, announced in June with great fanfare, appeared at first to be a win-win situation. Carnegie Hall would get a reliable source of revenue from Philharmonic subscribers, and it would benefit from the return of New York's hometown orchestra to Carnegie, where the Philharmonic had resided from 1891 to 1962, when it moved to Lincoln Center. The Philharmonic would gain a hall with excellent acoustics and avoid a costly renovation of Fisher Hall with uncertain acoustical results.

    But questions immediately arose about the compatibility of these two partners — about how two storied institutions could comfortably share control.

    "It sounded at first like a wonderful idea," said Betty Allen, a former mezzo-soprano who serves on the Carnegie board. "But as it went along, it sounded less and less good to me. There were many questions."

    Rita Hauser, a member of the Philharmonic board, said she was relieved. "I personally was opposed to the merger," she said. "I did not think we could put in question the independence and the integrity of the Philharmonic.

    "I hope we will have a healthy, fruitful relationship with Lincoln Center," Ms. Hauser added.

    Lincoln Center, the umbrella organization and landlord, acknowledged that the relationship with the Philharmonic would need to be repaired. The center's officials said they had been blindsided by the Philharmonic's announcement, having been told that the possibility of a move to Carnegie Hall — kicked around over the years — was no longer an option.

    "What we need to have is a partnership based on trust," said Bruce Crawford, the chairman of Lincoln Center. "We need to sit down with the appropriate people from the Philharmonic and work out how we can restore a good working environment."

    How extensive the renovation of Avery Fisher Hall will be is uncertain. "I can't say what we'll do," Mr. Crawford said yesterday. "We will work with the Philharmonic to reach a course of action."

    He added that the issue of the hall's acoustics had been "overstated."

    At Avery Fisher Hall, the Philharmonic has first dibs on dates and a hall, initially called Philharmonic Hall, that was built expressly as the orchestra's home. The orchestra currently performs 120 to 130 concerts a year in New York.

    Zarin Mehta, executive director of the Philharmonic, expressed some disappointment yesterday. "It's a wonderful hall," he said of Carnegie, "and to play in there would have been good for the Philharmonic."

    Other constituent groups at Lincoln Center and several classical music professionals commended the Philharmonic's decision yesterday.

    "I think it's a glorious outcome," said George Steel, executive director of the Miller Theater at Columbia University, which presents traditional and contemporary music. "There is no better institution to guide the process of renovating Avery Fisher Hall than the Philharmonic, the orchestra for which it was built.

    "And one of the great strengths of Carnegie Hall," he added, "is the extraordinary diversity of its programming, which I'm happy won't be diminished in any way.


    CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK

    Sometimes the Best Route to Progress Is a U-Turn

    By ANTHONY TOMMASINI

    It is essential for performing arts institutions to challenge and change themselves regularly to foster artistic growth. But the collapse of the proposed merger between the New York Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall is one instance when a return to the status quo may be the best result for everyone involved.

    To many minds, the merger never made sense. Looked at solely from the perspective of the New York Philharmonic, the primary advantage was obvious: instead of being a tenant in the acoustically challenged Avery Fisher Hall, the orchestra would have become a co-resident at America's most storied and acoustically excellent auditorium.

    But it was much harder to see how Carnegie Hall was supposed to benefit from the merger, unless you viewed it essentially as a business venture that would have combined two endowments and two subscriber bases at a time of economic uncertainties. Artistically, though, Carnegie Hall, a dynamic institution that is reinvigorating itself for the 21st century, was tying itself to a staunchly traditional institution that seemed unwilling to consider even small changes to things like the weekly subscription series format, which is looking more and more outmoded.

    From comments that Zarin Mehta, the executive director of the Philharmonic, made in recent months, it seemed clear that he was not going to be content simply to claim dates for his orchestra's concerts and leave the rest of the programming to Carnegie Hall. Mr. Mehta intended to be a forceful and equal partner in every aspect of Carnegie's operations.

    Even if Mr. Mehta had restricted his input, the Philharmonic's mere presence would have profoundly altered the weekly offerings and the essential character of Carnegie Hall.

    So what now? Things could not be going better for Carnegie Hall at the moment. As usual, this season in the main hall, Stern Auditorium, you can hear the great artists and ensembles of the world. While downstairs the new Zankel Hall has already become a hotbed of contemporary music from the classical, jazz and ethnic traditions.

    Meanwhile, after leaving Lincoln Center in the lurch the Philharmonic must reconcile itself to staying at Avery Fisher Hall. Even in the hall's current state, its acoustics are not that bad. The sound may lack warmth and body, but it is still essentially bright and present. On a good night during an exciting program few audience members sit through a Philharmonic concert thinking about acoustics.

    The best way for the Philharmonic to give itself the artistic jolt it needs is by finding the right successor to Lorin Maazel, whose contract ends with the 2005-6 season, when he will be 76.

    If the orchestra is hoping to bring in someone younger, a musician with close ties to the new generation of composers and performers, it better have begun the search process already. You can bet that younger maestros who are appearing with the orchestra this season, like David Robertson, Antonio Pappano, Alan Gilbert and Osmo Vanska, are going to be sized up for the job.

    You have to feel for the Philharmonic, which must be terribly envious of the new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Disney Hall, which is getting raves from architecture and music critics even before its official opening later this month.

    But Avery Fisher Hall was originally named Philharmonic Hall after the orchestra it was built for, and Lincoln Center makes little sense without the Philharmonic as an anchor. So let the peace talks begin. The extensive renovation of the Seattle Opera House, which reopened in August, offers proof that an auditorium with only adequate acoustics and a cramped lobby can be turned into an inviting, spacious and acoustically top-notch facility.

    Despite the brave talk of Jane Moss and other artistic planners at Lincoln Center, who tried to spin the desertion of the Philharmonic as an opportunity for Avery Fisher Hall to reinvent itself as a happening place, they have to be relieved. Lincoln Center is already offering some very innovative programming. There is no reason this cannot continue with the Philharmonic in residence.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  7. #7

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    October 9, 2003

    Picking Up the Pieces After the Philharmonic Deal's Collapse

    By ROBIN POGREBIN

    She loves me, she loves me not.

    Like a jilted lover whose straying paramour now seeks reconciliation, Lincoln Center has to figure out how to continue its 41-year-old relationship with the New York Philharmonic now that the orchestra's fling with Carnegie Hall is over.

    The Philharmonic still faces the issues with Lincoln Center that made it try to flee: Avery Fisher Hall's flawed acoustics, a renovation that could cost as much as $250 million without necessarily solving the problem, and finding a temporary home. But the mood has changed. Lincoln Center, which took a blow by being publicly spurned, now appears to have the upper hand because the Philharmonic has nowhere else to go.

    How real was the plan to merge in 2006? How far did the two sides get? The deal was struck in June, and as recently as August, Paul B. Guenther, the chairman of the Philharmonic, was telling his board that he expected to have an agreement to sign by October. Sanford I. Weill, chairman of Carnegie Hall, said on Tuesday that there were "a lot of executive committee discussions about the process," adding that progress was slowed by summer schedules.

    Trustees of both Carnegie Hall and the Philharmonic, who would speak only on condition of anonymity, said they felt frustrated that the talks had never gotten off the ground.

    "If they couldn't agree on the core issues, what were they talking about?" a Philharmonic board member asked. "This deal had no legs. There was total disagreement."

    After the announcement that the talks had been shelved, a joint telephone interview was conducted on Tuesday with Mr. Guenther; Zarin Mehta, executive director of the Philharmonic; Mr. Weill; and Robert J. Harth, executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall. They agreed that the discussions had progressed little beyond the expressed desire to join forces.

    "We only got as far as thinking this was something we wanted to do," Mr. Weill said.

    The talks about artistic control, shared finances and combined boards came apart mainly over dividing up performance and rehearsal time in the main hall, Isaac Stern Auditorium.

    "The substantive discussions about governance and finances and management did not take place because the scheduling had to take place first," Mr. Harth said. "The danger of compromising our artistic profiles was paramount."

    Now, with the Philharmonic's return to the fold, Lincoln Center appears to have the upper hand. In interviews, however, officials did not gloat but welcomed the Philharmonic.

    "It's an original constituent of Lincoln Center, and we're obviously pleased that they want to remain," said Bruce Crawford, the chairman of Lincoln Center.

    Over all, the Philharmonic's decision to stay appears to be a boon for Lincoln Center. The center gets to keep its resident orchestra with its attendant prestige and established donor base. It avoids the public relations problem of having two prominent constituent groups decamp, given that the New York City Opera has declared its hope to move to the World Trade Center site.

    Lincoln Center can continue to rely on the $2.5 million to $3 million the Philharmonic brings in every year in rental income, and it will not have to seek another group to fill the hall and replace that revenue.

    Some would argue that the Philharmonic's decision to remain is unfortunate for that very reason. The departure of the orchestra, which has long been criticized for playing it safe with a classical repertory, might have forced the center to experiment with more unorthodox programming and expand its reach to younger, less conventional audiences.

    Lincoln Center initially spoke of the orchestra's planned departure in 2006 as an opportunity to present more varied programming in Avery Fisher Hall and had begun talks with other orchestras to that end.

    Whether all is forgiven remains to be seen. Lincoln Center said it planned to re-evaluate the orchestra's constituency agreement, suggesting that it might make the terms tougher. "The constituency agreement between the Philharmonic and Lincoln Center is a contract that states that in exchange for certain privileges and obligations, the Philharmonic won't perform anywhere else in New York through 2011," Mr. Crawford said. "We'll sit down and talk about privileges and obligations and work things out for the future."

    At the top of the list is the renovation of Avery Fisher Hall. Lincoln Center's ambitious redevelopment project — once put at $1.5 billion but estimated at no more than $800 million — had been stalled in part by uncertainty about Avery Fisher Hall.

    The idea of razing the building and starting from scratch has already been rejected as too costly. In addition, the Avery Fisher family had threatened legal action to keep the name. So the Philharmonic must content itself with reconfiguring the auditorium within the existing structure, with no guarantee that the acoustics will be improved. Any renovation means the orchestra must find a temporary home, and at one time the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue at 67th Street was considered a possibility.

    Zarin Mehta, executive director of the Philharmonic, said the orchestra had yet to turn its attention to the renovation. "We don't know what's going to happen vis-ΰ-vis the redevelopment plans at Lincoln Center," he said. "So we have to get up to speed."

    Raising money for the hall's renovation is expected to be difficult. An initial exploration of the Philharmonic board's support was disappointing, with trustees unwilling or unable to make significant contributions.

    Before the Philharmonic announced plans to leave, the orchestra and Lincoln Center had agreed to raise money jointly. Lincoln Center officials said they expected that arrangement to continue but said they would be open to alternatives that might be more favorable to the Philharmonic.

    "It's going to take a while for us to resume conversations and establish a renewed working relationship," said Reynold Levy, the president of Lincoln Center. "One that will entail both operating discussions and capital planning discussions. We really need to reassess."


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  8. #8

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    October 9, 2003

    Separate Paths

    Well, it was a good idea. If the New York Philharmonic had returned, as planned, to Carnegie Hall — its home for more than 70 years until it moved to Lincoln Center in 1962 — it would have been a nearly perfect marriage of orchestra and concert hall. But this week the merger, which was announced in June, fell apart irrevocably in a decision reached by the chairmen of the two organizations and endorsed by their boards. To some observers, the short, fatal arc of this plan will be proof that there was never enough substance in the merger, which would have taken place in 2006. To others it will reflect poorly on the leadership of both institutions. It demonstrates that merging cultural institutions is no easier than merging corporations. The issues that scuttled the deal were not artistic in nature. They were matters of power and control.

    So the Philharmonic stays at Lincoln Center and Avery Fisher Hall, which it never left. And Carnegie Hall will retain control of its diverse programming without ceding great chunks of it to the Philharmonic. But neither institution picks up quite where it left off. The Philharmonic's relationship with Lincoln Center has been impaired by the orchestra's sudden decision to shift homes. And even though Carnegie Hall remains a stellar venue, the failure of this planned merger is another disturbance for an institution that has seen more tumult than it should have over the past few years.

    The real consequence of this failed merger is to put the focus squarely back on the question of Avery Fisher Hall, and on the frictions at Lincoln Center. Things have improved substantially under the leadership of Reynold Levy and Bruce Crawford, who bring a direct and low-key approach to the task of redeveloping the campus. But for the orchestra and Lincoln Center, there is no going back to the way things were, if only because Avery Fisher as it is makes the way things were unacceptable. Raising money for the reconstruction of the hall should be easier now that the principal tenant will remain the Philharmonic.

    Someday all these matters will be worked out, we hope, and we can then look forward to seeing all the turmoil at these great institutions solely on stage, in performance.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  9. #9

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    October 14, 2003

    No Easy Homecoming for the Philharmonic

    By ROBIN POGREBIN

    Lincoln Center, while publicly welcoming the New York Philharmonic back to the fold, is expected to argue that the orchestra has voided its contract and must renegotiate it. In particular Lincoln Center is seeking more advance notice about the orchestra's programming — three to five years instead of the current two — to give Lincoln Center more flexibility in planning its own presentations in Avery Fisher Hall when the Philharmonic is not playing.

    Merger talks between Carnegie Hall and the orchestra were scuttled last week over issues of artistic decisions and control of performance time. That left the Philharmonic no option but to return to Lincoln Center and deal with issues that had prompted its decision to leave in 2006.

    Most officials of the orchestra and Lincoln Center were unwilling to speak on the record, saying it was too early because negotiations were due to begin later this week. But several people on both sides predicted that Lincoln Center would make the most of its leverage.

    Last week, after the collapse of the Philharmonic-Carnegie Hall talks, Lincoln Center's president, Reynold Levy, essentially said that bygones should be bygones. But center officials were still bitter about being blindsided by the orchestra's planned departure.

    Parties to the talks said Lincoln Center officials were particularly unhappy with Paul B. Guenther, chairman of the Philharmonic, who had assured them in advance of the merger announcement that though the orchestra had thought about Carnegie Hall in the past, a move there was no longer under consideration. After months of discussions about renovating Avery Fisher Hall, the orchestra abruptly decided on the merger without giving Lincoln Center the chance for a counteroffer. Lincoln Center is expected to resist negotiating further with Mr. Guenther.

    Lincoln Center may not have to urge Mr. Guenther's resignation; the Philharmonic board itself may ask him to step down. Several trustees, who would not comment for the record, said Mr. Guenther mishandled the Philharmonic's planned departure in a way that has cost him the confidence of his board.

    Several Philharmonic trustees said that Mr. Guenther decided on the merger without consulting the full board, and that he agreed to a merger before having even begun to consider — or had the board consider — the logistical and programming ramifications. They said that he assumed the Philharmonic would have primacy at Carnegie Hall without ascertaining whether Carnegie would agree, adding that he expected to have an agreement to sign this month. In fact few meetings had taken place because of summer schedules, and the negotiations had stalled over the basic question of sharing the stage.

    Mr. Guenther dismissed the idea that he had failed the board. "Our board is probably in a more positive strong position," he said. "We agreed to start discussions, and we agreed to end discussions unanimously." Mr. Guenther said he had no plans to leave and added, "I'm still very happy as chairman of the Philharmonic."

    Zarin Mehta, executive director of the Philharmonic, said in an interview yesterday that suggestions of Mr. Guenther leaving were "malicious rumors" and that Mr. Guenther remained effective. "He's totally devoted to us," Mr. Mehta said. "He's done a great job raising money for us. He's terrific."

    As proof of the Philharmonic's breach, Lincoln Center will cite the orchestra's statements in the press and in internal letters about its departure. The Philharmonic for its part is expected to dispute this, saying that because the orchestra never actually left, it did not breach the agreement. "We've never agreed to the fact that anything was nullified," Mr. Mehta said.

    At the same time both Lincoln Center and the Philharmonic said they expected their future talks to be amicable. "I don't want to think we're going to talk in legal terms," Mr. Mehta said.

    Each of the center's 12 constituent groups — including the Metropolitan Opera, the Film Society and the Juilliard School — have agreements governing their relationships with Lincoln Center, the landlord. Bruce Crawford, the chairman of Lincoln Center, and Mr. Levy refused to comment.

    After the announcement of the planned merger, Lincoln Center said it would seek damages. Mr. Mehta said the orchestra had discussed paying Lincoln Center $3 million as a rough estimate of what the center would lose as a result of the Philharmonic's departure. The center is no longer expected to seek punitive legal action, but instead to use this opportunity to make the terms of the agreement more favorable to Lincoln Center.

    When the merger plan was first announced, Lincoln Center spoke of the Philharmonic's departure as an opportunity to reconceive Avery Fisher Hall more broadly and had begun discussions with several other orchestras about possible programming, including those from Vienna, Berlin and Cleveland. Lincoln Center wants to continue these talks and to capitalize on the possibility of providing more variety in the hall, an official said.

    Lincoln Center is not expected to reduce the Philharmonic's schedule and demand more dates in Avery Fisher Hall. But the dalliance with Carnegie has cost the Philharmonic some power, many of those involved agree; until now the orchestra was unrivaled in its domination of the hall.

    In moving forward together the Philharmonic and Lincoln Center will have to agree on a plan for Avery Fisher Hall; the orchestra decided to jump ship just as the architect Norman Foster was about to present his renovation plans.

    A full-scale overhaul of the auditorium that keeps the existing structure has been estimated at as much as $250 million. A less substantial upgrade is expected to cost significantly less, about $40 million to $50 million. Lincoln Center and the Philharmonic will have to decide how to apportion the fund-raising responsibilities.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

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