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Philharmonic Brings Back Free Central Park Concerts After Hiatus

By Amy Zimmer | March 21, 2012 5:41pm
New York Philharmonic Conductor Alan Gilbert.
New York Philharmonic Conductor Alan Gilbert.
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Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

MANHATTAN — Get the picnic baskets and blankets ready: The New York Philharmonic's free concerts in Central Park will be back after last summer's hiatus.

The popular concert series, which brings live music to parks across the city, makes its comeback July 11 through 17, marking its 47th season, orchestra officials announced Wednesday.

Music Director Alan Gilbert will kick off the series with performances of Respighi’s "Fountains of Rome and Pines of Rome" with Tchaikovsky’s "Symphony No. 4" in Prospect Park on July 11 and Central Park's Great Lawn on July 12.

Conductor Andrey Boreyko will lead three other concerts — in Queens' Cunningham Park on July 13, Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx on July 16 and Central Park on July 17 — featuring Tchaikovsky’s "Violin Concerto," with James Ehnes as soloist. The orchestra will also perform Brahms’s "Symphony No. 1."

The New York Philharmonic Brass will perform a free indoor show at Staten Island's Center for the Arts at CUNY's College of Staten Island on July 15.

Gilbert, who first led the renowned orchestra's beloved free concerts in 2008, recalled attending the parks concerts when he was a boy growing up in the city.

"I have always felt deeply that these concerts are an incredibly important aspect of what the Philharmonic can give to this city," Gilbert said in a statement. "I can’t wait to return to the parks and feel that overwhelming connection with the tens of thousands of people who, like me, love New York, love the New York Philharmonic, and love the New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks."

More than 14 million listeners have gotten their fix of classical music since the series began in 1965, orchestra officials said.

The Philharmonic pulled out of last year's Concerts in the Parks when its schedule changed because of other concerts, including the Sept. 15 performance with tenor Andrea Bocelli in Central Park and its free concert at Avery Fisher Hall in honor of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Orchestra players had reportedly been scheduled to be on vacation that week of September and instead switched it to July, when the concerts had been taking place for more than four decades. The orchestra had hoped to do the 9/11 performance in the park, but was unable to because it was so close to the Bocelli show and parks officials feared the double whammy of concerts would damage the lawn, reports said.

All performances start at 8 p.m.  The concerts at Central Park and Prospect Park will end with fireworks.