Avery Fisher Hall

Coordinates: 40°46′22″N 73°58′59″W / 40.77278°N 73.98306°W / 40.77278; -73.98306

Avery Fisher Hall is a concert hall, in New York City and is part of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts complex. It is the home of the New York Philharmonic, with a capacity of 2,738 seats.


Designed by Max Abramovitz, the hall opened in 1962 as Philharmonic Hall, as the new home concert venue of the New York Philharmonic, after the orchestra moved from Carnegie Hall. The hall was renamed for Avery Fisher, a member of the Philharmonic board of directors, following his US $10.5 million donation to the orchestra in 1973.


The acoustical consulting firm of Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN) was hired to design the interior acoustics for the hall. Based on their experience designing and analyzing existing concert halls, BBN acousticians recommended that the hall be designed as a "shoebox" with narrowly-spaced parallel sides (similar in shape to the acoustically-acclaimed Symphony Hall, Boston), with seating for no more than 2,400 patrons. Lincoln Center initially agreed with the recommendation, and BBN provided a series of design specifications and recommendations. However, the New York Herald Tribune began a campaign to increase the seating capacity of the new hall. Late in the design stage, the hall was redesigned to accommodate the critics' desires, but these changes invalidated much of BBN's acoustical design. BBN engineers told Lincoln Center that the hall would sound different from how they had intended it to, but they could not predict what the changes would do.

Philharmonic Hall opened on September 23, 1962, to mixed reviews. The concert, featuring Leonard Bernstein, the New York Philharmonic, and a host of operatic stars such as Eileen Farrell and Robert Merrill, was televised live on CBS. The opening week of concerts included performances by a specially-invited list of guest orchestras (Boston, Philadelphia, and Cleveland), who were regularly appearing at Carnegie Hall each season, as well as the new hall's home ensemble. Several reporters panned the hall, while at least two conductors praised the acoustics. (While the initial intention had been that Philharmonic Hall would replace Carnegie Hall, which could then be torn down, that scenario of events did not take place.)

Several attempts were made to remedy the acoustical problems of the new Philharmonic Hall, with little success, leading to plans in the 1970s for a substantial renovation project designed by noted acoustician Cyril Harris with project architect Philip Johnson. These renovations included demolishing the inside of the hall and rebuilding a new hall within the outer framework and facade. While initial reaction to the improvements was favorable, overall feelings about the new hall's sound soured, and the acoustics of Avery Fisher Hall continued to be problematic. One assessment of the acoustics of the hall from R.C. Ehle stated:

During the tenure of Kurt Masur with the New York Philharmonic, several …

The ongoing problems with the hall's acoustics eventually led the New York Philharmonic to consider a merger with Carnegie Hall in 2003, which would have moved the Philharmonic back to Carnegie for most of its concerts each season. However, this planned merger did not occur.

Beginning in 2005 (and continuing in 2006), the Mostly Mozart Festival has experimented with extending the stage for the Mostly Mozart orchestra farther out into the seats from the main stage for the Festival's summer season. According to a June 2006 report in the New York Times, Avery Fisher Hall is scheduled to begin undergoing renovations in the summer of 2010, delayed from previous announcements of renovations in 2009.

Notable events

Avery Fisher Hall is used today for many events, both musical and non-musical.

For example, it is a frequent location for graduation ceremonies for high schools and universities, such as New York Law School, Columbia University Law School, Brooklyn Law School, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, The Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University, Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, Stuyvesant High School, Edward R. Murrow High School, Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers, Polytechnic University of New York, Bronx High School of Science, Marymount Manhattan College, Juilliard School and St. George's University School of Medicine. Weddings are held there as well.

Another television concert from Avery Fisher Hall again featured Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in one of their Young People's Concerts, the first of the many Young People's Concerts televised from that venue (They had formerly been televised from Carnegie Hall). The program concentrated on concert hall acoustics, and, like the opening night concert, was shown over the CBS television network. It was entitled "The Sound of a Hall". At that time, the building was still known as Philharmonic Hall. The PBS series Live from Lincoln Center continues to feature performances from Avery Fisher Hall.

In addition, Lincoln Center presents visiting orchestras in Avery Fisher Hall, such as the London Symphony Orchestra, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Kirov Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre, as part of their "Great Performers" series.

Simon & Garfunkel recorded their live album, titled Live from New York City, 1967, here on January 22, 1967.

Queen performed two shows during their Sheer Heart Attack Tour on February 16, 1975, the first at 8:00pm and the second at 11:30pm.


  • Melone, Deborah; Eric W. Wood (2005). Sound Ideas: Acoustical Consulting at BBN and Acentech. Cambridge, MA: Acentech Incorporated. LCCN 2006920681. 
  • "Annals of Architecture: A Better Sound" by Bruce Bliven. New Yorker magazine, November 8, 1976.