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$40 million new gift from Oscar L. Tang and Agnes Hsu-Tang to New York Philharmonic
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$40 million new gift from Oscar L. Tang and Agnes Hsu-Tang to New York Philharmonic

The newly refurbished David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center is the New York Philharmonic’s gleaming home. Gustavo Dudamel, a legendary conductor who will take the stage in 2026, is its flamboyant new leader.

It will now begin its next chapter with a ground-breaking gift: the Philharmonic announced that it had received a $40 million donation from financier Oscar L. Tang, a co-chairman of its board, and his wife, Agnes HsuTang. This is the largest endowment gift in the group’s 181-year history.

When Dudamel, the 42-year-old conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is named music director designate in 2025–2026, the money will be utilized to endow the position of music and artistic director for the Philharmonic.

A “visionary” contribution, according to Gary Ginstling, who took over as the Philharmonic’s president and chief executive in July, would enable the group to “reimagine what a 21st-century orchestra can be and ensure that the Philharmonic’s music-making will serve future generations.”

Dudamel lauded Tang and Hsu-Tang and expressed his intention to broaden the Philharmonic’s social initiatives, perhaps by establishing a youth education initiative akin to the one he established in Los Angeles.

According to a statement he released, “Their deep belief in the power and importance of art has been self-evident from our first encounter and is something that bonds us closely.” “I have no doubt that together, we will achieve extraordinary things and construct many lovely bridges.”

For the Philharmonic, the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States, headed by legends like Mahler, Toscanini, and Leonard Bernstein, the gift is a triumph.

A decade ago, there were doubts about the Philharmonic’s survival due to the sluggish renovations of its drab auditorium and issues with its creative vision and financial stability.

However, it has recently seen a comeback, stabilizing its financial situation and, with Lincoln Center’s assistance, completing the protracted $550 million refurbishment of Geffen Hall, which reopened last year. The Philharmonic announced in February that it had recruited Dudamel, one of the most in-demand conductors in the world.

With a focus on music education and social change, Tang, who has been a member of the Philharmonic’s board since 2013, expressed his hope that the gift would usher in a “new golden age” under Dudamel as the Philharmonic works to build relationships with new audiences, particularly young people and Black and Latino residents. In 1962, when Bernstein was the Philharmonic’s music director and the orchestra had a sizable audience, Tang recalled moving to New York to begin his career on Wall Street.

We like to imagine bringing the New York Philharmonic back to the height of its power and influence from when I first arrived in the city, he said. “We wanted to support that and set the tone for the next phase of what we hope will be the New York Philharmonic’s transformation.”

The gift, according to Hsu-Tang, reflects the couple’s faith in the Philharmonic’s new directors. She has worked on international cultural heritage protection and rescue, advising UNESCO in Paris as well as the Cultural Property Advisory Committee under President Barack Obama.

In contrast to institutions that were forced to adapt as a result of the pandemic, she added, “We support institutions that are game changers — that want to make changes, that act on changes.” “The New York Philharmonic is not merely at its prime right now. It’s a time of renaissance for New York as well as for music, the arts, and culture.

One of the most well-known cultural philanthropists in the city is Hsu-Tang, who also holds the position of head of the board of the New York Historical Society. Tang is another. The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced in 2021 that the pair had committed $125 million, the largest capital contribution in the institution’s history, to aid in the reconstruction of its wing for modern and contemporary art.

Tang, who is now retired, co-founded the asset management company Reich & Tang in 1970 in New York. He was born in Shanghai, and at age 11, after his family had fled China after the Communist revolution to Hong Kong, he was sent to school in the United States.

He joined forces with the architect I.M. Pei, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and others to create the Committee of 100, a Chinese American leadership organization for fostering communication between the United States and China, following the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing.

Additionally, Tang and Hsu-Tang have promoted initiatives to combat racial discrimination. Early January 2021, the pair launched the Yellow Whistle campaign to fight prejudice against Asian people by handing out 500,000 free yellow whistles with the message “We Belong.”

A fifth of the Philharmonic’s endowment, or around $221 million, is represented by their gift. The money will also be used to pay the music director’s salary, as well as to support programs and education.

Although Dudamel won’t take over as music director of the Philharmonic until the 2026–2027 season, he is progressively giving the orchestra more of his attention.

The Philharmonic stated that he would attend a festival honoring the 100th anniversary of the Young People’s Concerts, which have assisted in introducing new generations to classical music, in New York in April. The ensemble’s spring gala concert will be conducted by Dudamel, who was not previously scheduled to perform this season, and he will also take part in educational initiatives.

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