Last night in the Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center the New York Philharmonic presented a marvelous bonus for major donors to the orchestra – a brief chamber music concert performed by four excellent musicians drawn from the string section of the orchestra, Michelle Kim and Joo Young Oh, violinists, Robert Rinehart, violist, and Eileen Moon, cellist. The violinists performed movements from two Duo Concertante compositions, Op. 57, of De Beriot, and the entire group played the Op. 13 string quartet, an adolescent effusion of the amazing Felix Mendelssohn. The Kaplan Penthouse, a gorgeous 10th floor performance space in the Rose Building, provides the perfect setting for chamber music, and the splendid performances were a welcome reward for patronage of the orchestra, which despite a banner year for fundraising in the fiscal year ended in August, still faces an operating deficit — in common with all too many of our finest performing arts organizations.
It may seem odd to make a pitch for the apparently well-heeled NYP at a time of high unemployment, financial uncertainty, and financial and physical suffering of so many people – and I certainly believe in and support many charities aimed at helping people affected by these problems – but I think it is worth making a pitch for cultural organizations as well, which make an essential contribution to our civilization. The NYP under the musical directorship of Alan Gilbert has a newly invigorated commitment to contemporary music and an extensive outreach to children and community groups, made possible entirely through philanthropic support to underwrite composer commissions and the expenses of outreach activities for which tickets are not sold. I understand collective bargaining is under way on a new contract for the orchestra, and I hope this negotiation will be approached by labor and management as a mechanism for problem-solving so that orchestra can go forward on a sound fiscal basis.