Music in Gotham and The New York Philharmonic announce a conference on The 19th-century American Orchestra: Overview

17-19 January, 2008

“Americans have always been besotted by orchestras,” so writes the New Yorker’s music critic, Alex Ross. This first scholarly conference on the nineteenth century orchestra will consider some of the ways this fascination came about, and grew over time in diverse locales Over time, orchestras acquired symbolic roles in cities such as Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, and New York.

The word “orchestra” was used in the nineteenth century for many different kinds of ensembles: festival, concert, theater, saloon, ball, hotel, and restaurant orchestras. Presenters at the conference will be examining several varieties of orchestras, who began them, their functions and, regarding the symphonies, who supported such costly cultural artifacts. In turn, we hope that this conference stimulates our colleagues to look into the beginnings and early development of hitherto untold orchestral life in their own cities and towns. The hoped for result will be a comprehensive history of orchestral activity, and a better understanding of what it takes for an orchestra and its players to prosper and for its audiences to gain the aesthetic capital that a civilized society requires.


Some exciting special events are planned for registrants. There are limited spaces available for the tours and limited tickets for the concert, so it is important to register early.

Wednesday, 16 January

  • There will be guided tours of Carnegie Hall and its Museum at 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., led by Carnegie’s Archivist Gino Francesconi. Attendees will assemble at the Carnegie Hall Museum, 154 W. 57th Street and take the elevator to the 2nd floor.
  • At 4:30 p.m., a tour of the New York Philharmonic Archives will be led by Philharmonic Archivist and Historian Barbara Haws. The tour is at the Philharmonic Archives, Rose Building at Lincoln Center, 65th Street and Amsterdam Ave, 4th Floor.

Thursday, 17 January

  • At 7:30 pm in Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Riccardo Muti, with Lief Ove Andsnes, piano, will present Brahms Piano Concerto no. 2, Liszt’s symphonic poem From the Cradle to the Grave, and Scriabin’s The Poem of Ecstasy. A reception for conference attendees will follow, sponsored by the Philharmonic.
  • The Philharmonic has set aside a block of tickets at the special rate of $42 each for our registrants; attendees can order one or two tickets.

Friday, 18 January

  • At 5:30 p.m., a reception for attendees will follow the sessions.
  • Saturday, 19 January
  • At 9:00 a.m., coffee and pastries will be provided by the American Musicological Society-Greater New York chapter.
  • At 12:30 p.m., lunch will be provided for attendees.
  • *Music in Gotham is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities with supplementary funding from the Baisley Powell Elebash Endowment, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and the Victor Herbert Foundation.

Music in Gotham
CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016
(212) 817-8604 (tel.)