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Founded in 1842, the New York Philharmonic is the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States. Explore our history below.


The New York Philharmonic plays a leading cultural role in New York City, the United States, and the world, and has built a tradition of innovation that has allowed it to adapt and thrive over more than 180 years.

Each season the Orchestra connects with up to 50 million music lovers through live concerts in New York and around the world; international broadcasts on television, radio, and online; recordings; and education programs. Jaap van Zweden began his tenure as the 26th Music Director of the New York Philharmonic in the 2018–19 season, succeeding musical leaders including Alan Gilbert (2009–17); Lorin Maazel (2002–09); Kurt Masur (Music Director 1991–2002; named Music Director Emeritus in 2002); Zubin Mehta (1978–91); Pierre Boulez (1971–77); Leonard Bernstein (appointed Music Director in 1958; named Laureate Conductor in 1969); Arturo Toscanini (1928–36); and Gustav Mahler (1909–11). Gustavo Dudamel will become Music Director Designate in the 2025–26 season, before beginning his tenure as Music and Artistic Director in 2026.

The 2023–24 season builds on the Orchestra’s transformation reflected in the new David Geffen Hall, unveiled in October 2022. In his farewell season as Music Director, Jaap van Zweden spotlights composers he has championed, from Mahler and Mozart to Steve Reich and Joel Thompson, and leads programs featuring several NY Phil musicians as soloists. The NY Phil delves into overlooked history through the US Premiere of Émigré, composed by Aaron Zigman, with a libretto by Mark Campbell and additional lyrics by Brock Walsh; marks György Ligeti’s centennial; gives World, US, and New York Premieres of 14 works; and celebrates the one-hundredth birthday of the beloved Young People’s Concerts. The Phil for All: Ticket Access Program builds on the Orchestra’s commitment to serving New York City’s communities that lies behind the long-running free concerts across New York City.

In the 2022–23 season the NY Phil explored its newly renovated home’s potential by performing repertoire that activated the new concert hall and by launching new presentations, including at the intimate Kenneth C. Griffin Sidewalk Studio. The Orchestra explored topics of vital importance through HOME, a monthlong festival introducing the hall and its new spaces; LIBERATION, a response to cries for social justice; SPIRIT, a reflection on humanity’s relationship with the cosmos; and EARTH, an examination of the climate crisis.

As a champion of the new music of its time, the Philharmonic has commissioned and / or premiered works by leading composers from every era since its founding. Highlights include the World Premieres of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, From the New World (1893), Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (1909), Gershwin’s Concerto in F (1925), and Berio’s Sinfonia (1968), as well as the US Premieres of Beethoven’s Symphonies No. 3 (1843), No. 4 (1849), No. 7 (1843), No. 8 (1844), and No. 9 (1846) and Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 (1886). Recent premieres / commissions include Tania León’s Stride, which was awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music and was reprised in October 2022; Julia Wolfe’s Fire in my mouth (2019) and unEarth (2023); David Lang’s prisoner of the state (2019); Wynton Marsalis’s The Jungle (Symphony No. 4) (2016); Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Piano Concerto (2007); and John Adams’s Pulitzer Prize– and Grammy Award–winning On the Transmigration of Souls (2002), dedicated to the victims of 9/11, and Scheherazade.2— Dramatic symphony for violin and orchestra (2015).

A resource for its community and the world, the New York Philharmonic presents annual free concerts across the city — including the Concerts in the Parks, Presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer, and the Free Memorial Day Concert, Presented by the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation. In addition to the famed Young People’s Concerts (ages 6–12), which began in 1924, the Orchestra has subsequently developed Very Young People’s Concerts (ages 3–6) and Young People’s Concerts for Schools (grades 3–12). The Philharmonic reaches thousands of students annually through Philharmonic Schools — an in-school program in which Philharmonic Teaching Artists guide students in how to listen, perform, and compose music — and the New York Philharmonic Very Young Composers Program — an after-school program in which students in New York and cities around the world learn to create their own music. Committed to developing tomorrow’s leading orchestral musicians, the Philharmonic offers training for pre-college students by Philharmonic musicians in partnership with institutions in New York committed to strong orchestra programs, including the Harmony Program, All-City High School Orchestra and Concert Band, and UpBeat NYC; the Shanghai Orchestra Academy and Partnership, which has featured summer performance residencies of the orchestra, as well as graduate-level training for orchestral instrumentalists since 2014; and a multiyear residency at the McKnight Center for the Performing Arts on the Oklahoma State University campus in Stillwater. Throughout history the NY Phil has been a beacon for our community during troubled times, including by responding to the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy; presenting free chamber-music concerts by Musicians from the New York Philharmonic at Ground Zero in the wake of 9/11; and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with free pop-up concerts around the city through NY Phil Bandwagon and the launch of streamed performances through NY Phil Plays On and NYPhil+.

Long a leader in American musical life, the Philharmonic has become renowned around the globe, having appeared in 436 cities in 63 countries on five continents. Historic tours have included the groundbreaking 1930 tour of Europe, led by Toscanini; the first tour of South America and Latin America, in 1958; the first tour of the USSR, in 1959 with Leonard Bernstein; the 1984 Asia Tour, including the first tour of India, with Zubin Mehta; and the 1998 Asia Tour, with the first performances in mainland China, with Kurt Masur. In 2012 the Orchestra became an International Associate of London’s Barbican Centre; extended residencies in 2012, 2015, and 2017 featured signature Philharmonic projects, including London editions of Young People’s Concerts and Philharmonic Very Young Composers. In October 2009 the Orchestra, led by then Music Director Alan Gilbert, made its debut in Hanoi, Vietnam, in the Hanoi Opera House. In February 2008 the musicians, led by then Music Director Lorin Maazel, gave a historic performance in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — the first visit there by an American orchestra and an event that was watched around the world, and for which the Philharmonic received the 2008 Common Ground Award for Cultural Diplomacy. With the 2022 residency at the Usedom Music Festival in Germany, the NY Phil became the first American orchestra to perform in Europe since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The New York Philharmonic has made more than 2,000 recordings since 1917. The Orchestra’s most recent recordings include David Lang’s prisoner of the state (2020) and Julia Wolfe’s Grammy-nominated Fire in my mouth (2019), both conducted by Jaap van Zweden and available on Decca Gold (Universal Music Group). A media pioneer, the Philharmonic began radio broadcasts in 1922 and is currently represented by The New York Philharmonic This Week — the award-winning series syndicated nationally 52 weeks per year and available on nyphil.org. On television, in the 1950s and ’60s the Orchestra inspired a generation through Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts on CBS. In 2003 it made history as the first orchestra ever to make a solo appearance at the Grammy awards, one of the most-watched television events worldwide. In 2006 the New York Philharmonic was the first major American orchestra to offer downloadable concerts, recorded live, and followed this with a self-produced digital recording series. In September 2016 the Philharmonic, which has the most Facebook fans of any American orchestra, produced its first-ever Facebook Live concert broadcast, and reached more than one million online viewers through three broadcasts that season alone. In 2023 the NY Phil announced a partnership with Apple Music Classical, the new standalone music streaming app designed to deliver classical music lovers the optimal listening experience.

The Orchestra shares its trove of music history free online through the ever-expanding New York Philharmonic Shelby White & Leon Levy Digital Archives, which comprises more than three million pages of documents, including every printed program since 1842 and scores and parts marked by Philharmonic musicians and Music Directors such as Gustav Mahler and Leonard Bernstein. One of the world’s most important orchestral research collections, the New York Philharmonic Archives also presents exhibits in David Geffen Hall for concertgoers to enjoy: interactive touchscreens on the Leon and Norma Hess Grand Promenade and Hearst Tier 1 trace the history of NY Phil musicians, Music Directors, and commissioned composers; and the 50-foot-long Hauser Digital Wall in the Karen and Richard LeFrak Lobby displays rotating exhibitions of artifacts from the Digital Archives.

Founded in 1842 by local musicians led by American-born Ureli Corelli Hill, the New York Philharmonic is the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States, and one of the oldest in the world. The roster of composers and conductors who have led the Philharmonic includes such historic figures as Theodore Thomas, Antonín Dvořák, Gustav Mahler (Music Director, 1909–11), Otto Klemperer, Richard Strauss, Willem Mengelberg (Music Director, 1922–30), Wilhelm Furtwängler, Arturo Toscanini (Music Director, 1928–36), Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, Bruno Walter (Music Advisor, 1947–49), Dimitri Mitropoulos (Music Director, 1949–58), Klaus Tennstedt, George Szell (Music Advisor, 1969–70), and Erich Leinsdorf.