The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to performing arts institutions nationwide, closing their theaters and robbing them of ticket revenue. But for the New York Philharmonic and Lincoln Center, it has also offered a silver lining: the opportunity to accelerate the long-delayed renovation of David Geffen Hall.
With concerts in the hall canceled since March 2020, construction began in earnest over the past few months. Work is expected to continue for the next year and a half, with a reopening planned for fall 2022, the orchestra and center announced on Monday.
That is a year and a half ahead of schedule, though it comes with the trade-off that the Philharmonic will not be at Geffen for the wave of triumphant cultural homecomings expected around the country this fall, assuming the pandemic ebbs.
The orchestra will nevertheless still spend much of its coming season at Lincoln Center, with the majority of its performances at Alice Tully Hall or the Rose Theater. Though it plans to announce its full program in early June, Deborah Borda, the Philharmonic’s chief executive, said in a video interview with other orchestra and center leaders that she anticipated smaller-scale and intermissionless concerts, at least at first.
that jump-started the project in 2015.
“Through 2020, quite rightly, people’s minds were elsewhere, and we had lots of other challenges as organizations,” Timms said. “But once we got to the end of the year, the opportunity became clear: Could we do this sooner? That became a period in which a lot of people stepped up to support the project, because they saw it as a recovery story, a way to invest in the economic and human recovery of the city.”
The old plan had called for progression in stages to limit disruption to the Philharmonic, which would never have lost a full season in the hall. Katherine Farley, the chairwoman of Lincoln Center’s board, said the new timeline would not diminish the scope of the renovation, which aims to render the lackluster hall more aesthetically and acoustically appealing. Seating will wrap around the stage, which will be pulled forward 25 feet to what is currently Row J, bringing a greater sense of intimacy to what can feel like a cavernous shoe box. The new space will have about 2,200 seats, down from 2,738.
in a rented pickup truck for pop-up performances, and has said it will be back on the road this spring. Its NYPhil+ subscription streaming service was unveiled in February, featuring archival concerts and some fresh content. On April 14 and 15, a contingent of players will appear in front of small audiences at the Shed, 30 blocks south of Lincoln Center, with the conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen. (Jaap van Zweden, the Philharmonic’s music director, was not available because of commitments overseas, though he was in New York recently to tape two programs for NYPhil+.)
But its losses have been crushing. The orchestra has projected that the cancellation of its 2020-21 season resulted in $21 million in lost ticket revenue, on top of $10 million lost in the final months of its season last spring. (Some of that has been mitigated by emergency fund-raising.) Even when live performances resume, despite Borda’s rosy predictions, the box office may not bounce back immediately.
The need for savings that will extend beyond the pandemic was reflected in a new four-year contract agreed to by the orchestra and its musicians in December, which includes a 25 percent cut to the players’ base pay through August 2023. Pay will then gradually increase until the contract ends in September 2024, though at that point the musicians will still be paid less than they were before the pandemic.
plotted a return to its old home, Carnegie Hall; that plan fizzled, further damaging relations between the orchestra and Lincoln Center, its landlord, which also uses the hall for its own musical presentations and for corporate rentals. Concluding in 2012, a $1.2 billion redevelopment of the center left improvements all over — but the costly hall overhaul was not included.
restarted the project with the donation that gave the hall his name. Construction was supposed to start in 2019, but stalled well before that amid logistical problems and management turnover at both the Philharmonic and Lincoln Center. That plan had called for finishing the hall in time for the 2021-22 season. It was a schedule that the orchestra and center came to doubt was viable, but had they been able to stick to it, the renovated hall would have been ready to open just as the city hopes to emerge from the long pandemic closure.
Borda was hired in 2017 in large part to put the renovation back on track; in her previous job leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic, she had brought the construction of Walt Disney Concert Hall over the finish line. In New York, she pushed for a scheme less flashy and more achievable than some of the proposed options — one less likely to overrun its budget and designed to unfold in phases, limiting the stretches the Philharmonic would be exiled.
To be away from the hall for multiple years was assumed to pose an existential threat to its audience’s loyalty. Ironically, if Geffen reopens as now scheduled, the orchestra will have been out of its home for nearly two and a half seasons straight — exactly the situation that was so feared by its management.
As for David Geffen, who expressed frustration at some of the earlier setbacks in the years since his gift, Farley said in the interview that she had just spoken to him earlier that day.
“He’s a guy who’s big on efficiency,” she said, “and loves the idea we’re building it in one shot.”
Paul Laubin, a revered oboe maker who was one of the few remaining woodwind artisans to build their instruments by hand — he made so few a year that customers might have had to wait a decade to play one — died on March 1 at his workshop in Peekskill, N.Y. He was 88.
His wife, Meredith Laubin, said that Mr. Laubin collapsed at his workshop during the day and that the police found his body that night. He lived in Mahopac, N.Y.
In the world of oboes, his partisans believe, there are Mr. Laubin’s oboes and then there is everything else.
He was in his early 20s when he began making oboes with his father, Alfred, who founded A. Laubin Inc. and built his first oboe in 1931. Paul took over the business when his father died in 1976. His son, Alex, began working alongside him in 2003.
Sherry Sylar, the associate principal oboist of the New York Philharmonic. “It’s a resonance that doesn’t happen with any other oboe. It rings inside your body. You get addicted to making that kind of a sound and nothing else will do.”
In a dusty workshop near the Hudson River, lined with machines built as long ago as 1881, Mr. Laubin crafted his oboes and English horns with almost religious precision. He wore an apron and puffed a cob pipe as he drilled and lathed the grenadilla and rosewood used to make his instruments. (The pipe doubled as a testing device: Mr. Laubin would blow smoke through the instrument’s joints to detect air leaks.)
His father taught him techniques that date back centuries. As the decades passed and instrument makers embraced computerized design and factory automation, Paul Laubin resisted change. As far as he was concerned, if it took 10 years to build a good oboe, so be it.
“What’s the rush?” he said in an interview with The New York Times in 1991. “I don’t want anything going out of here with my name that I haven’t made and checked and played myself.”
told News 12 Westchester in 2012.
When a Laubin oboe was finally completed, its unveiling was cause for celebration. One customer arrived at the Peekskill workshop with a bottle of champagne, and as he played his first few notes, Mr. Laubin raised a toast.
told The Times in 1989. “I would have to think twice about starting it today.”
The company’s fate is now undetermined. Alex Laubin served as office manager and helped with some aspects of production but did not learn the full process. He often urged his father to modernize their operation — to little avail.
“No one sits down anymore and files out keys,” Meredith Laubin said. “No one turns out one oboe joint at a time. This is all automated now, like how robots make cars. But Paul wasn’t endorsing any of these things. To him, there was no cheating the family recipe.”
Mr. Laubin knew, however, that the old ways would come to an end. He was finding it harder to ignore the realities of being an Old World artisan in the modern era.
“Paul got to have one part of his dream, which was to be able to work with his son,” Ms. Laubin said. “But the other part of his dream, knowing that his work would continue on in the way he did things, he knew that wasn’t going to happen.”
Still, he hewed to tradition to the end. On his work table the day he died lay the beginnings of Laubin oboe No. 2,600.
The renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma gives an impromptu performance in a vaccine waiting room in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, after having received his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine. He performs Ave Maria and the prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite No 1 to the small number of patients waiting to receive the dose. Ma, who played for about 15 minutes, is a part-time resident of the area and wanted to ‘give something back’ to his community, according to a local paper, the Berkshire Eagle