Thursday, October 9, 2003

N.Y. Philharmonic pulls out of move

By Verena Dobnik
The Associated Press

At first blush, a marriage between the New York Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall seemed like a good idea to both.

But the relationship ended Tuesday before a single note sounded.

The nation's oldest orchestra and its most fabled concert hall announced they would not merge, four months after the bold idea was born.

That means the Philharmonic will remain in its Avery Fisher Hall home at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

In a statement, the organizations said each was better off on its own.

Reasons for the proposed move included the superb acoustics at Carnegie Hall, the Philharmonic's former home, and the cost of renovating Fisher Hall - as much as $400 million - at a time when arts organizations nationwide face a fund-raising pinch.

The planned merger threw Lincoln Center's programming into turmoil. Within three years, minus the Philharmonic, the world's largest arts complex would have had a 2,738-seat hall to fill.

"We're delighted they're back," Lincoln Center President Reynold Levy said. "Now we will resume conversations with them."

He said that after the Philharmonic announced its proposed departure, Lincoln Center started creating possible alternative programs in the orchestra's absence.

As a result, "we believe we've discovered some new and innovative ways to serve the public" - ideas Levy said could be considered in Lincoln Center's joint planning with the Philharmonic. He wouldn't elaborate.

The Philharmonic's executive director, Zarin Mehta, said that the main reason the merger did not succeed is that Carnegie Hall could not accommodate the number of concerts the orchestra plays each season, between 120 and 130.

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