The New York Philharmonic has a new setting

Design and acoustics tuned to the millimeter: after months of work, the prestigious New York Philharmonic Orchestra will perform in a renovated venue. A project worth more than half a billion dollars.

With two weeks to go, it's time for final adjustments for musicians. But also for the acoustic specialists who are putting the finishing touches to the walls and ceilings of David Geffen Hall. “It's a bit like going on a sound safari. It's really about reinventing the sound of the orchestra."explains to AFP Jaap van Zweden, conductor and musical director of the “Phil”.

According to him, the dated design of David Geffen Hall, opened since 1962 within Lincoln Center, did little to contribute to good acoustics. From now on, the musicians will “find a lot of sounds and beauty” but “this honeymoon between them and the room needs time”, he warns. Born in 1995, the pharaonic project at 550 million dollars dragged on for a long time. Paradoxically, the pandemicby forcing the room to close to the public, has accelerated things.

More than 600 workers and technicians worked permanently on the site. The renovation reduces capacity from 2,738 to 2,200 seats, but visibility will be improved and some spectators will be placed behind the orchestra, whose stage has been moved forward slightly to enhance the surround effect. “The walls were clad in beech wood to support the low frequencies in the room”explains chief acoustician Paul Scarbrough.

The sound becomes different

Another novelty: a modular acoustic canopy. "We were able to fine-tune both the amount of energy returned to the musicians on stage (...) and the amount directed towards the audience"adds Paul Scarbrough.

The acoustics have been tested and adjusted with different musical works, to better bring out the "different colors, textures, timbres and layers of instruments", he also explains. An experiment "unbelievable" for violinist Yulia Ziskel, 22 seasons on the clock, who says that with certain changes, “the sound suddenly became different”.

The setting of the hall since August marks a homecoming for the Philharmonic, America's oldest musical institution, established in 1842. The orchestra has had to perform in other spaces at Lincoln Center since March 2020. "I can't wait to see what the public will see"confides trumpet player Ethan Bensdorf, at the dawn of his fifteenth season. "That's why we are musicians (...) that's why live music is so magical"he adds.

If the season officially kicks off on October 12 with the world premiere ofOyaby the Brazilian Marcos Balter, the very first meeting is set for October 8. San Juan Hill: A New York Story, will mark the inauguration of the premises. The show was composed by trumpeter Etienne Charles. It traces the life of the African American, Caribbean and Puerto Rican communities living in the Upper West Side neighborhood before the massive urban renewal operation. This saw the birth of Lincoln Center, one of the artistic centers of Manhattan, where the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Ballet.

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