David Geffen Hall
|Former names||Philharmonic Hall (1962-1973)|
Avery Fisher Hall (1973-2015)
|Address||10 Lincoln Center Plaza|
|Location||New York City|
|Public transit||Subway: (all times) (late nights) at 66th Street–Lincoln Center|
NYC Bus: M5, M7, M11, M20, M66, M104
|Owner||New York City Government|
David Geffen Hall is a concert hall in New York City's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts complex on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The 2,738-seat auditorium opened in 1962, and is the home of the New York Philharmonic.
The facility, designed by Max Abramovitz, was originally named Philharmonic Hall and was renamed Avery Fisher Hall in honor of philanthropist Avery Fisher, who donated $10.5 million ($61 million today) to the orchestra in 1973. In November 2014, Lincoln Center officials announced Fisher's name would be removed from the Hall so that naming rights could be sold to the highest bidder as part of a $500 million fund-raising campaign to refurbish the Hall. In 2015, the hall was renamed David Geffen Hall after Geffen donated $100 million to the Lincoln Center.
The hall underwent renovations in 1976 to address acoustical problems that had existed since it opened. Another smaller renovation attempted to address unresolved problems in 1992. Both projects achieved limited success.
In May 2004, the orchestra announced that the building would undergo renovations in 2009, but the plans were delayed many times. In June 2006, The New York Times reported that the construction had been delayed until the summer of 2010. By 2012, it became clear that construction would not start before 2017. The shell of the building was to be left intact and work was to focus on improving the hall's acoustics, modernizing patron amenities and reconfiguring the auditorium.
On November 13, 2014, Lincoln Center officials announced their intention to remove Avery Fisher's name from the Hall and sell naming rights to the highest bidder as part of a $500 million fund-raising campaign for its refurbishment. Lincoln Center chairwoman Katherine Farley said, "It will be an opportunity for a major name on a great New York jewel." Fisher's three children agreed to the deal for $15 million.
Geffen's donation of $100 million to Lincoln Center in 2015 was seen as jump-start to the planned $500 million project to renovate the Hall, but on October 3, 2017, it was announced that existing renovation plans for the Hall had been scrapped. Then, on December 2, 2019, it was announced that the plans to renovate the Hall — acoustically and aesthetically redesigning it, removing over 500 seats, adding balcony seating wrapping around the entire stage, and making the stage tiered and moving it farther forward — would finally go forward, with construction beginning in 2022. Deborah Borda, the president of the New York Philharmonic, said, "We have to do it right this time, and this, I think, is the plan to do it." On June 10, 2020, Borda announced that because of the cancellations of performances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lincoln Center would commence preliminary renovation work on the Hall before the Philharmonic's planned return to performances on January 6, 2021, though the orchestra has since cancelled all scheduled performances at the Hall through June 13.
Architects hired the acoustical consulting division of Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN) to design the original interior acoustics for the hall. Their acousticians recommended a 2,400 seat "shoebox" design with narrowly spaced parallel sides (similar in shape to the acoustically acclaimed Symphony Hall, Boston). Lincoln Center officials initially agreed with the recommendation, and BBN provided a series of design specifications and recommendations. However, the New York Herald Tribune began a campaign to increase the seating capacity of the new hall and late in the design stage it was expanded to accommodate the critics' desires, invalidating much of BBN's acoustical work. BBN engineers told Lincoln Center management the hall would sound different from their initial intent, but they could not predict what the changes would do.
The first of Lincoln Center's buildings to be completed, Philharmonic Hall opened September 23, 1962, to mixed reviews. The concert, featuring Leonard Bernstein, the New York Philharmonic, and a host of operatic stars such as Eileen Farrell and Robert Merrill, was televised live on CBS. The opening week of concerts included performances by a specially invited list of guest orchestras (Boston, Philadelphia, and Cleveland), who regularly appeared at Carnegie Hall each season, as well as the new hall's resident ensemble. Several reporters panned the hall, while at least two conductors praised the acoustics. While the initial intention had been that Philharmonic Hall would replace Carnegie Hall, which could then be demolished, that scenario did not take place.
Management made several attempts to remedy the induced acoustical problems, with little success, leading to a substantial 1970s renovation designed by acoustician Cyril Harris in conjunction with project architect Philip Johnson. It included demolishing the hall's interior, selling its pipe organ to California's Crystal Cathedral, and rebuilding a new auditorium within the outer framework and facade. While initial reaction to the improvements was favorable and some advocates remained steadfast, overall feelings about the new hall's sound soured and acoustics there continued to be problematic. One assessment by Robert C. Ehle stated:
The seating capacity is large (around 2,600 seats) and the sidewalls are too far apart to provide early reflections to the center seats. The ceiling is high to increase reverberation time but the clouds are too high to reinforce early reflections adequately. The bass is weak because the very large stage does not adequately reinforce the low string instruments.
In December 1977, High Fidelity Magazine printed an article that stated members of the Philharmonic disliked the sound so much they referred to the venue as "A Very Fishy Hall." In 1992, under the tenure of Kurt Masur with the New York Philharmonic, several solid maple wood convex surfaces were installed on the side walls and suspended from the ceiling of the stage to improve acoustics. The maple was specially selected to minimize its grain pattern. The new components are filled with fiberglass to deaden vibrations.
The ongoing problems with the hall's acoustics eventually led the New York Philharmonic to consider a merger with Carnegie Hall in 2003, which would have returned the Philharmonic to Carnegie Hall for most of its concerts each season. However, both sides abandoned talks after four months.
Beginning in 2005 (and continuing in 2006), the Mostly Mozart Festival has experimented with extending the stage for the Mostly Mozart orchestra farther out into the seats from the main stage for the Festival's summer season.
David Geffen Hall is used today for many events, both musical and non-musical. As part of its Great Performers series, Lincoln Center presents visiting orchestras in David Geffen Hall, such as the London Symphony Orchestra, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Kirov Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre. The PBS series Live from Lincoln Center also features performances from the Hall.
Composer Samuel Barber was commissioned to write his Piano Concerto for the opening of the venue, and the work was premiered at the inaugural concert on September 24, 1962 with pianist John Browning. An early television concert from Philharmonic Hall featured Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in one of their Young People's Concerts. It was the first of many concerts televised from Philharmonic Hall, which had been previously televised from Carnegie Hall beginning in 1958. The 1962 program concentrated on concert hall acoustics, and, like the opening night concert, was shown over the CBS television network. It was entitled "The Sound of a Hall".
Bob Dylan performed at Philharmonic Hall on October 31, 1964. The concert was released as The Bootleg Series Vol. 6: Bob Dylan Live 1964, Concert at Philharmonic Hall in 2004.
The Supremes performed there on October 15, 1965. The iconic poster for the show was designed by Joe Eula.
In 1995, the star-studded charity show The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True was staged. The show, which starred Jewel, Jackson Browne, Roger Daltrey, and Nathan Lane as the principal characters from the 1939 film, benefited the Children's Defense Fund, and aired subsequently on TNT, TBS, PBS, and VH-1.
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