The New York Philharmonic Opens Digital Archives to the Public

The New York Phil­har­mon­ic recent­ly unveiled its dig­i­tal archives to the pub­lic. They haven’t fin­ished the archive quite yet, but they have com­plet­ed the Leonard Bern­stein years, also known as the  “Inter­na­tion­al Era.” You can find busi­ness cor­re­spon­dence, hand­writ­ten notes, 3,200 pro­grams, and gems like this Mahler score, full of nota­tions and com­ments in Bern­stein’s hand. As a recent New York Times arti­cle points out, the Bern­stein years (1942–70) saw some of the most tumul­tuous events in Amer­i­can his­to­ry, and in no way was the Phil­har­mon­ic immune from its upheavals.

In the archives, one finds the orches­tra hir­ing women for the first time, scout­ing for African-Amer­i­can musi­cians (in 1969 they had just one), and even doing its bit to man­age U.S.-Soviet rela­tions with sev­er­al attempts to invite Shostakovich – unsuc­cess­ful­ly. Fans of Glenn Gould might par­tic­u­lar­ly enjoy read­ing the min­utes of a meet­ing in which mem­bers of the board, out­raged over Gould’s famous­ly con­tro­ver­sial Brahms per­for­mance just one month ear­li­er, argued to release him from his con­tract. Bern­stein him­self also hat­ed Gould’s inter­pre­ta­tion, but had nonethe­less defend­ed it before the audi­ence in an his­toric speech about the pianist’s artis­tic integri­ty and judge­ment. (The video above is of a hap­pi­er col­lab­o­ra­tion between the two mas­ters just two years ear­li­er.)

Also: On March 17, the NYPhil post­ed this video of a per­for­mance of Toru Takemit­su’s “Requiem for Strings,” to raise aware­ness of the plight in Japan and encour­age dona­tions.

Sheer­ly Avni is a San Fran­cis­co-based arts and cul­ture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Week­ly, Moth­er Jones, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her on twit­ter at @sheerly.


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