The New York Philharmonic is putting the finishing touches on a new home

The New York Philharmonic Orchestra rehearses at David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center on September 19, 2022 in New York City. – The New York Philharmonic is getting into tune-up as they prepare to open their brand new performance space next month – and it’s not just the instruments that need to hit the perfect pitch. The hall itself is rehearsed, with the famous symphony testing its works as acousticians adjust the wall and ceiling panels to ensure warm, rich tones. It’s “almost like you’re going on a sound safari,” said Jaap van Zweden, the Philharmonic’s music director since 2018. “It’s really reinventing the sound of an orchestra.” (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP)

NEW YORK, United States (AFP) – The New York Philharmonic is preparing to open its brand new performance space next month – and it’s not just the instruments that need to hit the perfect pitch.

The hall itself is rehearsed, with the famous symphony testing its works as acousticians adjust the wall and ceiling panels to ensure warm, rich tones.

It’s “almost like you’re going on a sound safari,” said Jaap van Zweden, the Philharmonic’s music director since 2018. “It’s really reinventing the sound of an orchestra.”

The conductor of Dutch origin explained to AFP that for years the dated design of the former hall did little to help the acoustics created by the instruments.

But now, “they’re getting back a lot of sounds and beauty, it’s a bit new for them…this honeymoon between them and the hall needs time.”

A $550 million overhaul of the venue, which first opened in 1962, accelerated after concerts closed at David Geffen Hall in March 2020.

As halls around the country went dark, the Philharmonic, in partnership with Lincoln Center—an art complex on Manhattan’s Upper West Side—finally embarked on a reconstruction of its home that had been talked about since 1995.

More than 600 construction workers are working around the clock, six days a week in multiple shifts and overtime, to transform the building into a state-of-the-art space with improved acoustics and a more accessible design.

The renovation will reduce capacity from 2,738 to 2,200, but visibility will improve for nearly every seat in the house.

And some seats are now placed behind the orchestra, with the stage 24 feet (seven meters) up against the wall from where it was before, giving concerts a sense of surround sound.

The walls were carefully reconstructed and covered with beech wood to support the room’s bass frequencies, explained head acoustician Paul Scarbrough.

Another new feature is an adjustable acoustic canopy: “We were able to fine-tune how much energy is returned to the musicians on the platform so they can hear themselves and play along, versus how much is sent to the audience,” Scarbrough said. .

“So that they can have a rich and immersive experience of the orchestra.”

– new “energy” –
Working with Van Zweden, the Akustiks team selected a variety of works “that would bring out the different colors, textures, timbres and layering of the instrumentation,” Scarbrough said.

They then began fine-tuning the room’s features to enhance the sound quality on stage and in the audience.

Violinist Yulia Ziskel called the experience and design “incredible,” describing how orchestra members would get to discuss the sound before any changes were made to the room, and five minutes later “things would be vastly different, suddenly sounding different.”

“This hall is so flexible to accommodate so many different possibilities,” said the musician, who has played with Phil for 22 seasons.

The tuning of the hall, which began in August, marks the homecoming of the Philharmonic, which will be a traveling symphony from March 2020.

The pandemic, followed by extensive renovations that turned their old venue into a skeleton of itself, meant that one of America’s oldest musical institutions opened its subscription season last fall in temporary homes in other spaces at Lincoln Center.

Ethan Bensdorf, a trumpeter entering his 15th season with the company, said coming back felt like “buying a new pair of jeans.”

“You’re really excited to wear your new jeans, they might feel a little stiff at first,” she said. “But the more you get used to it, the more they mold to your body.”

The Philharmonic’s public opening will be on October 8 and will feature “San Juan Hill” by Etienne Charles. The season of the commission will then open on October 12 with the world premiere of Oya by Brazilian conductor Marcos Balter.

“I can’t wait to see what the audience will see,” said musician Bensdorf. “That’s why we perform, that’s why we’re musicians, that’s what we get from live music, that’s why live music is so magical.”

“I’m really looking forward to the energy in the hall.”

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© Agence France-Presse