January 12, 2009 / 10:00 PM / in 9 years

N.Y. Philharmonic hopes to dodge financial crisis

<p>The New York Philharmonic performs during a rehearsal before their concert at the Seoul Arts Centre February 28, 2008.Lee Jae-Won</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Philharmonic, hoping it will escape the global financial crisis, unveiled a new music director, a new season and actor Alec Baldwin as the voice of the orchestra on Monday.

At the launch of the 2009/10 program for the philharmonic, which made a historic visit to North Korea in February 2008, president Zarin Mehta said the orchestra has so far escaped the worst economic turmoil since the 1930s Great Depression.

"We have not seen so far any falloff in our attendance, in fact it's been extremely robust all through this period and including the start of this year," Mehta told reporters onstage at the Lincoln Center, the orchestra's Manhattan home.

"In New York I have a sense this will continue. We haven't seen a drop-off in donations and frankly we're all keeping our fingers crossed," he said. "But we're very aware and vigilant, we're cutting anything now that is not essential."

But he stressed no artistic cuts were being made to the philharmonic, one of the oldest symphony orchestras in the world, adding that "the main thing that we're concerned about frankly is the uncertainty."

"We have to go on, I don't see that this crisis is going to go on for the next 20 years. We have to ride out the storm and put that good face forward," he said.

The orchestra's 2009/10 program, which opens in New York on September 16, includes tours of Asia and Europe with debut performances in Hanoi and Abu Dhabi. The New York Philharmonic has performed in at least 418 cities worldwide since 1930.

The orchestra was founded in 1842 by a group of local musicians and plays about 180 concerts a year. In late 2004, the philharmonic gave its 14,000th concert -- a milestone unmatched by any other orchestra in the world.

while the New York Philharmonic has so far been shielded from the financial crisis, some other U.S. orchestras and opera houses are finding it hard to raise funding and are suffering from sluggish ticket sales, prompting cuts, cancellations and closures.

Credit Suisse is the orchestra's global sponsor and Paul Calello, chief executive of the company's global investment bank, said that "in economically challenging times like these, it's more important than ever that we reaffirm that support, and for us, and me personally, it's a wonderful distraction."

Leading the orchestra from September will be Alan Gilbert, the 25th music director in its history and the first native New Yorker to hold the position. Gilbert is the son of two New York Philharmonic violinists.

He said that for the first time since 1962, the philharmonic will open the 2009/10 season with a world premiere, a piece by the orchestra's new composer-in-residence Magnus Lindberg, which is yet to be written.

Gilbert and Mehta also introduced baritone singer Thomas Hampson as the philharmonic's artist-in-resident and Baldwin, who won a Golden Globe on Sunday for his role in television comedy series "30 Rock," as the announcer for the orchestra's weekly concert radio broadcast.

"I'm a huge fan of classical music," Baldwin said. "I ask only one thing though, I would like to be referred to as the announcer-in-residence."

Editing by Mark Egan and Mohammad Zargham

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