Pandemic Expedites Major Makeover of New York Philharmonic’s Concert Hall at Lincoln Center

By Kurt Stolz on 7 April 2021
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Lincoln Center

The renovation of the New York Philharmonic’s concert hall at Lincoln Center, first announced in December 2019, is two years ahead of schedule and will be completed by the fall of 2022, officials there said.

The $550 million project is yet another renovation in an attempt to “reimagine” the auditorium and improve its much-maligned acoustics.

Originally planned to be done in stages, which would have allowed the orchestra to perform at the hall some of the time, the cancellation of the the orchestra’s performances amidst the coronavirus pandemic allowed the renovation work to proceed without being tied to the orchestra’s schedule.

“We moved expeditiously forward,” said the orchestra’s CEO, Deborah Borda.

Unlike other major orchestras including that of the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic has paid its musicians’ salaries, albeit with a reduction.  The musicians have worked on recording projects and small groups have performed in various venues in the city.

Originally named Philharmonic Hall, what is now Geffen Hall was renamed Avery Fisher Hall in 1973 in honor of philanthropist Avery Fisher, who donated $10.5 million ($59 million in 2019 dollars) to the orchestra.  It underwent a major renovation in 1976 and a second smaller renovation in 1992, both times to address acoustical issues that had existed since its opening.

The Fisher name was removed in 2014 in order to sell the naming rights to help raise $500 million to refurbish the hall.  The hall was renamed David Geffen Hall in 2015 after Geffen donated $100 million to Lincoln Center.

The renovation, which was originally to take place during the 2023-2024 season, will reduce the capacity of the hall by over 500 seats.  Much of the third tier will be eliminated, the rows in the orchestra will be reduced from 43 to 33, and the auditorium floor rake will be increased. The plans also call for the stage to be moved forward 25’ (7.6 m), which will allow the addition of seven rows of seating behind the orchestra. Finally, the distance from the last row of the orchestra to the stage will drop from 119’ (36 m) to 92’ (28 m).

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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