Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More Philharmonic history than you'll need

As I was leafing through the program at last Thursday's NY Philharmonic concert, I noticed an ad for the Philharmonic's new online performance history database, set to launch on June 22. I checked the orchestra's web site yesterday and found that the database had gone live as scheduled. You can search for any composer, performer, or concert from the orchestra's founding in 1842 up to the present day. I played around with the database for a few minutes, looking up various Philharmonic performances that I've attended in New York. Then I remembered a Philharmonic concert I attended at the Kennedy Center in Washington when I was a freshman at Georgetown. I searched for performances in Washington, DC during the 1992-93 season and found the one I attended. It was the Philharmonic's 11,990th performance and they played Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, along with Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks and Barber's Adagio for Strings. The site even notes the time of the performance: 5 PM. I wonder where I went for dinner after the concert.

It's fun to look up artists to see how many times they've performed with the orchestra, or which works a particular conductor led, or how many times the Philharmonic has performed some of your favorite symphonies (they've played Mahler's Symphony No. 2 34 times in their history, and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony 107 times). I'm still looking for a more academic usage of the database. The search results don't link to program notes or artist bios, so they are without a historical context. The "about this search" page reads like this historical information is there, so maybe I've just missed it. But for a first effort at a task like this, the Philharmonic has done a phenomenal job.

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