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Why I Became a "Real Part" of the New York Philharmonic Family

Photo of Peter H. Judd. Peter H. Judd, whose most recent book The Akeing Heart: Passionate Attachments and Their Aftermath: Sylvia Townsend Warner, Valentine Ackland, Elizabeth Wade White, published in 2013, describes his introduction to the New York Philharmonic.

“I was 14 in the fall of 1946 and in my freshman year at boarding school when I became aware of classical music. I was awakened by a recording of Figaro's first act aria from Le Nozze di Figaro that was playing on a 78 RPM record from the Fritz Busch Glyndebourne set. I've been a passionate opera- and concert-goer since. I took violin lessons and played in the school orchestra; later, I managed the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra.

“In the fall of 1955 I was in London after a year of study at Oxford. While I waited to be drafted, I explored London's concert and theater life with a friend. England was only beginning a recovery from the postwar austerity programs, and many venues were drab and chilly. Royal Festival Hall, built in conjunction with the Festival of Britain in 1952, was a great exception—contemporary in appearance, spacious, and comfortable. We bought tickets for the New York Philharmonic which was visiting.

“I had never heard the Philharmonic live before but I knew them by reputation—about Bruno Walter, Leonard Bernstein, Dimitri Mitropolous. Onto the stage that evening walked somewhat tough-looking men that made up the orchestra at that time; they seemed full of confidence, implying ‘We're here and we will show you our stuff.’ They were New Yorkers, and such New Yorkers, I thought with a wave of homesickness. And then the sound! It was strong, decisive, and made that bright hall ring. (What was the program? A call to the Archives revealed the date was October 5; Mitropolous conducted; the program was the Freischutz Overture, the Schumann Second, and the Brahms First Piano Concerto with Dame Myra Hess.) I knew I wanted to continue hearing this Orchestra.

“Now when the musicians come on stage, there are women and less of that can-do brashness that made me so homesick half a century before. More important, I see friends who I know on a first name basis, but they don't know me. I check to see if Frank or Cheryl and Cindy and Carter are leading their sections, and I listen to hear the individual contributions of Liang, Anthony, Phil and so many others. The Philharmonic concerts open my imagination and senses. I have two subscriptions and perch above the Orchestra on the 2nd tier.

“To help ensure continuity of this marvelous institution so that others can share the enjoyment of the orchestra's artistry, I put the Philharmonic in my estate plan. I chose a simple procedure, providing that a portion of my IRA go to the orchestra. It's my way of saying thank you for all that the Philharmonic concerts have given me.”

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