“The Joy” of experiencing the New York Philharmonic and Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall

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The celebratory scene after the final performance of the evening, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, at the David Geffen Hall Inaugural Gala. Photo: JH.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022. Warm weather — for November in New York — with temps in the low 60s and into the 50s by late evening yesterday, rising to 70 degrees today.

More and more big events and galas coming to the calendar.  Last Friday night, at Lincoln Center’s was the second of two events for the David Geffen Hall Opening Gala, “The Joy” conducted by Music Director Jaap van Zweden leading the New York Philharmonic.

Seeing the First Tier of David Geffen Hall for the first time.

This was the re-opening of the great concert hall which first opened in 1962 as the Philharmonic Hall. Then in 1973, it was renamed the Avery Fisher Hall which was closed more than a half century later for much needed refurbishing.

Hollywood’s David Geffen personally contributed more than $100 million for the $550 million refurbishing which was massive. The first of the reopening galas was the Wednesday before it opened with a contemporary musical evening. Then on Friday came the black tie affair with the symphony orchestra. This was an exciting event because everyone was aware that were seeing a brand new concert hall just in terms of the acoustics, and the design in the refurbishing.

Upon arrival, Gala guests were invited to walk the red carpet in the Karen and Richard LeFrak Lobby, then proceeding upstairs to a cocktail reception on the Leon and Norma Hess Grand Promenade and Leni and Peter May Terrace, where drinks and passed hors d’oeuvres were served. New York Governor Kathy Hochul gave remarks during the reception.

L. to r.: Deborah Borda — the New York Philharmonic’s Linda and Mitch Hart President & CEO — and Coralie Toevs; Gala Co-Chairs Katherine G. Farley (who also serves as Lincoln Center Chair) and Jerry I. Speyer.
Lincoln Center President and CEO Henry Timms.

The Gala Co-Chairs were: Jody and John Arnhold, Mrs. Veronica Atkins, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Katherine Farley and Jerry I. Speyer, Mr. and Mrs. J. Christopher Flowers, Linda and Mitch Hart, Susan and John Hess, Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar L. Tang, Sheryl and Chip Kaye, Suzie and Bruce Kovner, Leni and Peter W. May, and Billie and Ross McKnight.

There was great excitement just in seeing the changes brought by the refurbishing because of certain problems of the original design contributing to what were considered poor acoustics. The acoustical problems persisted after a multiple further tweaks and it was finally decided that the only solution was to demolish the original auditorium entirely and build a new concert hall.

Clamoring to enter the new concert hall.

In 2015 David Geffen who was willing to support a new effort made his enormous pledge. The accelerated renovation — which was actually a brand new interior in terms of shape, size and acoustics — was completed nearly two years ahead of schedule (and on budget!). The results, which we saw last Friday night, were nothing short of sensational, even just to see and sit in the comfortable seating with enough room for our legs and people passing through on their way to their seats.

The program opened with a commissioned piece You Are the Prelude by composer Angelica Negron with vocals provided by a massive chorus by the New York Philharmonic Chorus, and followed by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 conducted by Mr. van Zweden, conducting. The evening was titled “The Joy” and it was entirely that. Beethoven’s iconic “Ode to Joy” melody of the last movement, which is almost universally heard over the centuries, provided an appropriate capstone to a month of opening festivities.

Music Director Jaap van Zweden conducts the New York Philharmonic in the David Geffen Hall Opening Gala concert.
Composer Angélica Negrón takes a bow after the World Premiere of her NY Phil–commissioned work You Are the Prelude, with text by Ricardo Alberto Maldonado.

The quartet of soloists for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 comprised (L-R): soprano Joélle Harvey, mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor, tenor Issachah Savage, and bass-baritone Davóne Tines.
A standing ovation for the New York Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic Chorus in the new concert hall.
The seat fabric of the new hall with celebratory confetti to match.

The entire evening was a fundraiser with more than $17 million realized. The musicians of the orchestra donated their services for the concert. After the concert which ended about 9:30 pm, guests (there were hundreds of us) moved to the Grand Promenade and First Tier where tables were set with red tablecloths, florals, and taper candles for a three-course dinner before enjoying nightcaps and hot chocolate in the Lobby. The event was designed by Van Wyck & Van Wyck and Workshop and catered by CxRA. Chocolates were furnished by Bridgewater Chocolates.

Florals by Van Wyck & Van Wyck and Workshop.
Exiting the concert hall onto the Leon and Norma Hess Grand Promenade set for dinner.
Gala dinner tables were arranged across the Leon and Norma Hess Grand Promenade and the First Tier of David Geffen Hall.

Among those attending the evening were: Deborah Borda, Linda and Mitch Hart President of the New York Philharmonic, Peter and Leni May, Oscar L. Tang (Co-Chairman, New York Philharmonic) and HM Agnes Hsu-Tang, Katherine Farley (Chair, Lincoln Center) and Jerry I. Speyer, Henry Timms (President and CEO, Lincoln Center), Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Tania León, violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianists Emanuel Ax and Yuja Wang, conductor Klaus Mäkelä, ballet dancer Misty Copeland, Mercedes Bass, Liz and Jeff Peek, Virginia Duchin, Peggy Siegel, Alec and Hilaria Baldwin, Christine Baranski, Mariska Hargitay and Peter Hermann, and our hostess Barbara Tober.

L. to r.: Gala Co-Chairs Leni and Peter W. May (who also serves as Co-Chairman of the New York Philharmonic); NY Phil Board member Sylvia Tóth and Francesco Fiorito.
L. to r.: NY Phil Board member Peter Jungen and Renate Rodrian Jungen; NY Phil Board member Honey M. Kurtz and Stephanie Pierce.
L. to r.: NY Phil Board member Carol Schaefer and Chuck Schaefer; Barbara Tober.
Gala Co-Chairs HM Agnes Hsu-Tang and Mrs. Veronica Atkins.
Gala Co-Chairs Billie and Ross McKnight and Mitch and Linda Hart.
NY Phil Co-Chairman and Gala Co-Chair Oscar L. Tang greets New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who gave remarks during the David Geffen Hall Opening Gala reception.
L. to r.: NY Phil Board Vice Chair Karen LeFrak and Richard LeFrak; Mary Anne Huntsman and NY Phil Board member / International Advisory Board Co-Chair Angela Chen.
John Carpenter, Peter Yeoh, Janet Ross, NY Phil Board member Mary Wallach, and Monika Bincsik.
L. to r.: Arielle and Alvin Patrick; Charles Danziger and NY Phil Board member Misook Doolittle.
Jeremy Levin, Margery Feldberg, Nina Kjellson, and Christine Baranski on the Leni and Peter May Terrace.
L. to r.: NY Phil Board member Susan Rose and Elihu Rose; NY Phil Board member / International Advisory Board member Charles C. Y. Chen and Angel Chang.
Trevor Gibbons and NY Phil Board member Sarah Jane Gibbons with Hilaria Baldwin and NY Phil Board member Alec Baldwin.
NY Phil Chairman Emeritus Oscar S. Schafer (second from left) and Didi Schafer (left) with NY Phil Music Director Jaap van Zweden and Aaltje van Zweden-van Buuren.
L. to r.: Gala Co-Chairs HM Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar L. Tang; Deborah Borda with NY Phil Board Secretary Daisy M. Soros.
Gala Co-Chair / Lincoln Center Chair Katherine G. Farley, Olu Evans, Misty Copeland, Beverly Cumbo, and Commissioner Laurie Cumbo.
Violinist Jennifer Koh and NY Phil Board member and Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Tania León.
Paul Sekhri and pianist Yuja Wang.
NY Phil Board member Dr. Kathryn Beal (bottom right) and Bruce Beal (top right) with Mariska Hargitay and Peter Hermann.
Dinner guests toast the completion of the new David Geffen Hall at the Opening Gala.

Photographs by Julie Skarratt, Chris Lee, Don Pollard, Marcus Middleton, & Getty

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