Young People's Concerts In remembrance and renewal on the tenth anniversary of September 11, Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic give A Concert for New York, a free performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 2, Resurrection. The Philharmonic also looks back on how it has responded to times of strife with music through an archival exhibit in the Bruno Walter Gallery in Avery Fisher Hall and an Insight Series discussion and performance on September 9 featuring composer John Corigliano, Philharmonic Archivist/Historian Barbara Haws and Philharmonic musicians. The Orchestra has played an important role consoling the nation at critical times, from Abraham Lincoln's assassination through the Great Depression and the world wars to the AIDS epidemic, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina. The online exhibit presented here and the Webcast of the Insight Series event examine this honored history.

Video: Watch the Insights Series panel discussion and performance In Times of Strife: Music Responds.

Video: Watch the 9/10/11 Memorial Concert

Lincoln Assassination

Memorializing Presidents 1799-1945

The New York Philharmonic has a long history of memorializing U.S. presidents.

After an earlier Philharmonic Society was formed in 1799, its first official performance was at the memorial service for George Washington. When Abraham Lincoln's funeral train stopped in New York on April 24, 1865, tens of thousands of New Yorkers flocked to City Hall to view his coffin; five days later the New York Philharmonic opened its concert with the funeral march from Symphony No. 3, Eroica — Beethoven's celebration of a great hero.

Although previously scheduled to perform Beethoven's Ninth, the musicians determined that the jubilant "Ode to Joy" would not be appropriate, and so chose to omit the fourth movement. Dwight's Journal of Music criticized the decision to shorten the symphony in a review on May 13, 1865: "Instead of giving us this great monument of human genius in its completeness, the Society ... [cut] off Beethoven's sublime idea at the very point where it reaches its culmination." The review then falsely accused the Philharmonic of an ulterior motive for cutting the choral movement, attributing the decision to the cost and difficulty of obtaining singers.

In 1898 the musicians of the Philharmonic still felt that the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth was inappropriate for mourning. When beloved conductor Anton Seidl died, the Philharmonic performed only the first three movements, followed by "Siegfried's Death" from Wagner's Götterdämmerung.

On January 11, 1919, Philharmonic musicians and the audience stood for seven minutes while the Orchestra performed the "Dirge" from American composer's Edward MacDowell's Suite No. 2, Indian. This was to honor Theodore Roosevelt, who had died suddenly five days earlier from a pulmonary embolism, surprising his physicians, his family, and the nation. James Gibbons Huneker described the atmosphere of the concert in a review written for The New York Times on January 12: "The audience stood throughout, as did the orchestra, and the sentiment of regret expressed was unmistakable."

Although practically forgotten today, MacDowell's "Dirge" was often performed during World War I and over subsequent years in memoriam of soldiers and orchestra personnel. Perhaps the Philharmonic favored the "Dirge" in response to the nation's patriotic enthusiasm for American music and desire for a distinctly American song of mourning.

At rush hour on Thursday, April 12, 1945, New Yorkers flooded out of the subways and gathered around parked cars to hear the shocking news on the radio — Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the country's longest serving president, was dead. For the first time in its history the Philharmonic cancelled its evening concert and offered refunds for ticket holders. The Friday matinee began with the Allegretto from Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, followed by a moment of silence.

Only one concert has been cancelled since 1945 — in acknowledgment of President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

  View the program honoring Abraham Lincoln

  View the program honoring Theodore Roosevelt

  View the program honoring Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Star Spangled Banner

World War II

On December 7, 1941, multitudes of Americans were listening to the Philharmonic's weekly radio broadcast when an announcer broke in: "We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin. The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor." The remainder of the program — Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1 and Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 2, played by Arthur Rubinstein — was periodically interrupted by national and local newscasters as information became available. The Orchestra and the audience in Carnegie Hall did not learn about the attack until the end of the concert, when the announcer for the radio programs came on stage and read the news bulletin aloud. The Orchestra responded by standing and playing a very emotional rendition of the national anthem.

After the United States entered the war, the Philharmonic used its weekly radio broadcasts to inspire patriotism and entertain the troops. During every intermission at Carnegie Hall, listeners at home heard a "Patriotic Interlude" written by Carl Van Doren, an American historian and biographer. Each Sunday he read and interpreted a passage from the "American Scriptures," inspirational words from historic Americans.

The weekly broadcasts were repeated over the Armed Forces Network and had a strong following among the troops. The Philharmonic sent concert programs to military hospitals and army camps overseas so that servicemen and women could follow along. Prisoners of war in Germany were even able to keep up with the Orchestra after POW First Lieutenant Thomas Holt wrote and requested concert programs. On July 1, 1945, the Philharmonic played Request of the Troops, a program featured on the broadcast series comprising music requested by American soldiers via mail.

  View the program interrupted by Pearl Harbor

  View Request of the Troops program for Sunday Broadcast

  View the letter from POW Thomas Holt

Bernstein and JFK Assassination

JFK Assassination

News of President John F. Kennedy's assassination reached the New York Philharmonic during an afternoon subscription concert led by George Szell. Following Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3, the Orchestra's manager Carlos Moseley broke the news to the audience and canceled the rest of the program. The remaining concerts that weekend replaced the overture with the funeral march from Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, Eroica, performed without applause.

On November 24, Leonard Bernstein conducted Mahler's Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, in a televised tribute to President Kennedy. Not only was it the first time the complete symphony was televised, but performing Mahler for an event of this nature was unprecedented. At the United Jewish Appeal Benefit the next day, Bernstein explained his novel decision to program this work rather than the expected Eroica or a requiem. Read Bernstein's handwritten speech below, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Since the tribute to JFK, Mahler symphonies have become part of the standard repertoire for national mourning. Bernstein led the Philharmonic in the Adagietto from Mahler's Symphony No. 5 at Robert Kennedy's funeral in St. Patrick's Cathedral on June 8, 1968, and Pierre Boulez conducted the same movement in recognition of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's death in 1969.

On September 10, 2011, the Philharmonic will recognize the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with Mahler's Second — the same piece performed in honor of JFK.

Watch part of the JFK Tribute Concert

  Bernstein explains his choice of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 (handwritten draft)

  Bernstein explains his choice of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 (transcript)

View Bernstein's score for Mahler's Symphony No. 2, Resurrection




AIDS Symphony

By September 1991 there were 36,231 cases of AIDS in New York City alone, with more than 300 additional people diagnosed each month.

On January 1, 1992, the Philharmonic gave a concert dedicated "to those who have died of AIDS, those who are living with AIDS, and those who help and support them." The highlight of the concert was the New York Premiere of John Corigliano's Symphony No. 1. Corigliano's piece was inspired by the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, an enormous collection of quilt panels inscribed with the names of people who have died from AIDS.

As the composer's personal response to the crisis, Corigliano's symphony memorializes his friends who died of AIDS in a patchwork of musical subjects. The first three movements of this work are dedicated to three musician-friends whose personalities are represented by the use of solo instruments that emerge throughout the texture in various states of loss, frustration, and madness. The piano, heard in the segment from the first movement below, represents the pianist Sheldon Shkolnik who died of AIDS a week after the Symphony's Chicago premiere, which he attended. For a full explanation of Corigliano's inspiration and programmatic meaning, see the program notes below.

During the performance in January, 1992, panels from the NAMES Quilt were on display in the Grand Promenade. Before and after the concert, the audience was invited to add the names of their beloved to the memorial quilt. A new panel was created for the New York Philharmonic.

  View Program Notes for John Corligiano's Symphony No. 1

9-11 PostersSeptember 11, 2001

On September 11, 2001, the musicians of the Philharmonic were on their way home from a residency in Braunschweig, Germany. While changing planes in Frankfurt, they learned about the unfolding tragedy in New York. Philharmonic staff acted quickly, securing hotel accommodations for the large group. The musicians anxiously waited days for airplanes to be allowed to fly again so they could return to their families.

On September 20, the Philharmonic replaced its Gala Opening Night Concert with a Memorial Concert, featuring a performance of Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem in memory of the victims of September 11. Then Music Director Kurt Masur and the musicians donated their services, as did the soloists, soprano Heidi Grant Murphy and baritone Thomas Hampson. Proceeds from the concert were donated to World Trade Center relief. The program was projected onto a large screen on Lincoln Center's Josie Robertson Plaza and broadcast nationally, so as to reach as many New Yorkers and Americans as possible.

Beginning in October, Philharmonic musicians formed chamber groups to play free lunchtime concerts for the people living and working in lower Manhattan. At the time, Philharmonic President and Executive Director Mehta explained to The New York Times: "It has come to our attention that those people who worked in lower Manhattan and are now back to their regular jobs downtown must do so under fairly trying circumstances. Those of us uptown who don't have to face the daily visual reminder of the tragedy would like to provide solace and support in some small way."

Over the next few months the musicians performed 13 concerts at venues including the World Financial Center, South Street Seaport, Liberty Plaza, and Federal Hall.

In late January 2002 the Philharmonic approached American composer John Adams about writing a piece for the first anniversary of 9/11 — only half a year away. Although the time-frame was remarkably short for a commission of such magnitude, Adams felt that he needed to write the piece in order to work through his own emotional response. In February Adams visited "Ground Zero" and compiled a text from missing-persons posters and memorials posted in the vicinity of the ruins of the World Trade Center. By late spring the composer met with leaders of the victims' groups to discuss the work, which he titled On the Transmigration of Souls.

In the program notes for the work's premiere, on September 19, John Adams explains his response to the commission and his creative process during the brief time-frame, and described the piece as a "memory space ... where you can go and be alone with your thoughts and emotions."

Watch Video: Beverly Sills introduces the 9/20/2001 Memorial Concert

Watch Video: Kurt Masur conducts The Star-Spangled Banner at the 9/20/2001 Memorial Concert

Watch Video: Interviews with the musicians about 9/11


  View program notes from the 9/20/2001 Memorial Concert

  View program notes for John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls