December 7, 2012 - Anniversary of the first concert by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra

The New York Philharmonic is the oldest professional orchestra in the U.S. It played its first concert on this date in 1842—and its 15,000 concert in 2010! No other orchestra comes close to that record!

That first concert was held at the Apollo Rooms in what is now TriBeCa, in lower Manhattan. Guests had to pay 83 cents apiece. Now, we all “get” that 83 cents used to buy a lot more in those days—it won't even get you a bottle of water or can of soda, most places, these days!—but surely even then it was an awkward sum to have charged. I guess 3 quarters, one nickel, and three pennies would do it...but why not 80 or 85 cents??!

The musicians wore formal wear and white gloves and greeted the 600 guests as they entered the room. When the music began, all the musicians remained standing as they played, except the cellists. That was the fashion then. It was, perhaps, grueling to play for THREE HOURS while standing!

First on the concert program was a work that was new to most of the listeners: Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. The orchestra also played chamber music and several operatic pieces—with a vocalist, of course.

One thing that is interesting about this first concert is that the musicians voted on which pieces they would play and who would conduct. The orchestra members also voted when new musicians wished to join. At the end of the season, all the musicians would divide any proceeds (profits) among themselves.

(I'm pretty sure the NY Philharmonic doesn't operate in such a democratic fashion any more!)

Also on this date:

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