The world-renowned New York Philharmonic is America's oldest symphony orchestra, continuing to maintain high standards in the performance of new and old music into the second century of its existence. Beginning in the 1820s, there were several attempts to found an orchestra in the city, the more successful of which were the Philharmonic Symphony Society (established in 1842) and the New York Symphony (established in 1878). The Philharmonic had a reputation for conservatism and high standards, hiring primarily European conductors, such as Gustav Mahler. The symphony orchestra, on the other hand, seemed more ambitious and interested in new music. It received patronage from Andrew Carnegie, enabling the building of Carnegie Hall (1891), with an inaugural concert led by Walter Damrosch and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The Philharmonic Society finally merged with the symphony orchestra in 1928, during the tenure of the renowned conductor Arturo Toscanini, who helped it establish its world-class reputation through international tours.
Many great conductors would follow, among them: John Barbirolli, Bruno Walter, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Zubin Mehta, Kurt Masur, and Lorin Maazel. Under Bernstein, the orchestra's reputation blossomed in new ways. Bernstein brought a youthful excitement to the music, engaging new audience members, particularly through television appearances. The advent of stereo recording allowed the New York Philharmonic to re-record much of the standard canon. It also got a new performance venue: Avery Fisher (originally Philharmonic) Hall at the Lincoln Center.