3 Orchestras With a Sound To Fit the Space
A rendering of the Park Avenue Armory as it will be used for the “Philharmonic 360” program, built around the 1957.
By STEVE SMITH
Published: June 22, 2012
FOR the planners and builders of the Park Avenue Armory, the landmark structure that consumes a city block, bounded by Park and Lexington Avenues and 66th and 67th Streets, music was surely not among the chief concerns. Completed in 1881, the armory was intended to serve as a military installation and social club for the Seventh Regiment of the New York National Guard.
Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times
Two of the conductors, Alan Gilbert, left, and Magnus Lindberg, with John Schaefer, right, of WNYC radio.
But in a city rife with creative minds and strapped for space, function often follows form. The year the armory opened, Leopold Damrosch conducted the New York Symphony Society, a precursor of the New York Philharmonic, in what is said to have been the American premiere of Berlioz’s Requiem in the armory’s 55,000-square-foot Drill Hall. Nearly 300 orchestral musicians and 1,200 vocalists were reportedly involved in the production.
Now, on Friday and next Saturday, the Philharmonic returns to the armory in similarly spectacular style for“Philharmonic 360,” a program of pieces that feature spatially dispersed players and multiple ensembles. Built around “Gruppen,” a work for three orchestras completed in 1957 by the visionary German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, the program is characteristic of the extravagant projects with which the Philharmonic’s music director, Alan Gilbert, has concluded recent seasons.
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