A surprise merger is called off New York Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall say they're too big to join forces, after all.

Posted: October 08, 2003

Having flabbergasted much of the music world with the announcement of a merger earlier this year, the New York Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall called it off late yesterday with only the vaguest explanations.

The agreement was reached unanimously by the boards of both organizations. A joint statement said that the mission and size of both parties were too big for a merger, which was a concern raised by many when the plan was first announced June 2.

At the time, Carnegie executive and artistic director Robert Harth claimed that the hall had enough dark nights amid its various touring orchestras to accommodate the New York Philharmonic's extensive week-in, week-out schedule.

Some, including Philadelphia Orchestra president Joseph H. Kluger, lauded the plan. The advantages included efficient consolidation of support staff. Also, the orchestra would trade the troubled acoustics of its Lincoln Center home in Avery Fisher Hall for Carnegie Hall's superb sound. The move was planned to be gradual; the orchestra's first full season in Carnegie Hall was scheduled for 2006-07.

The original announcement came at a difficult time for Lincoln Center. A proposed multimillion-dollar renovation had ground to a halt amid disagreements among the center's resident companies and doubts that such huge sums of money could be raised in the current economy. Already, the New York City Opera was looking for a venue outside Lincoln Center.

However, Lincoln Center subsequently released statements questioning the legality of the New York Philharmonic's departure. If, over the last four months, Lincoln Center induced the orchestra to stay where it is, key officials weren't about to say so in the official statements.

"We gave the possibility of a merger our best efforts and learned a tremendous amount in the process," said Sanford I. Weill, chairman of Carnegie Hall. "Having gone through this very important exercise of self-evaluation, Carnegie Hall has been strengthened as an institution. While it was a wonderful dream to pursue the possibilities, I think we have all come out of this stronger and more enlightened, and I have no doubt that this is a win-win situation for both institutions."

"This was clearly a process worth undertaking for the New York Philharmonic," its chairman, Paul Guenther, said in the same statement. "All involved have spent an extraordinary amount of time and effort on this potential project, and as a result, have a deeper and richer understanding of each other's institutions."

Other officials weren't available for comment.

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