Thursday night I went to hear the New York Philharmonic.
The orchestra’s place of business, now called David Geffen Hall (want your name on a building? One hundred million dollars will do the trick), was ripped up and renovated during the COVID-enforced shutdown, with radical attention paid to the acoustics which everybody used to kvetch about. Loudly.
I didn’t. I lack the pretension to claim my ears are acutely sensitive to the nuances and tonal qualities of great music performed in large buildings. However, my ears have emerged from their modesty to inform me the orchestra does sound especially superb now. If a single word will suffice (it won’t, not really), I’d say “clarity” is that word, with maybe “clarion” mixed in.
The program Thursday night was going to be exciting — a one-movement work by William Grant Still, Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto and the Philharmonic’s first ever performance of Shostakovich’s 12th Symphony (from 1960).
But before I walked upstairs to my seat, I spent some time exploring through the newly configured lobby. I found at least one bar (offering sandwiches which will accommodate me nicely on nights when I haven’t had dinner) and a formal restaurant. There’s a massive TV screen where one can see and hear live performances for free, and a lot of soft seating in colorful upholstery.
Having re-oriented myself to the place, I walked down a wide hallway, empty of anyone but me, toward the entrance to the hall itself. I noticed soft music playing through hidden speakers.
Took me a few seconds to realize it was Christine McVie.