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N.Y. Philharmonic Names Matthew VanBesien as Executive Director

Matthew VanBesien, named executive director of the New York Philharmonic. He succeeds Zarin Mehta. Photo: James Penlidis via the Philharmonic.
Matthew VanBesien, named executive director of the New York Philharmonic. He succeeds Zarin Mehta. Photo: James Penlidis via the Philharmonic.

Jan. 4 (Bloomberg) -- The New York Philharmonic named Matthew VanBesien, a 42-year-old former French-horn player and managing director of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, as executive director.

VanBesien will succeed Zarin Mehta, who has held the top administrative post at the oldest U.S. orchestra since 2000.

Mehta presided over an attempt to move the orchestra from Lincoln Center to Carnegie Hall in 2003. The orchestra soon canceled those plans and remains at Avery Fisher Hall, periodically issuing complaints about the acoustics and plans to improve them.

According to a statement from the orchestra, VanBesien will join the Philharmonic as interim executive director early this year. The statement says he and Mehta will work together during a “transitional period.” Mehta has said he will step down at the end of this season.

The Philharmonic’s four-year contract with the musicians expired on Sept. 20. Soon after, players voted to authorize their union, Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, to strike. Such a vote can preface a stoppage, but doesn’t always.

The Philharmonic’s loss from playing music -- orchestra expenses over income -- was $23.1 million in the year ending August 2011, according to its annual report. That excludes contributions, investment income and management expenses. Net assets increased by $19.6 million to $196.2 million, after declining by $1.5 million the previous year.

Tough Search

The Philharmonic, founded in 1842, struggled to find a replacement for Mehta. (The New York Times reported that at least six candidates turned the job down.) Mehta earned $860,210 in pay and benefits in 2009-10. Katherine Johnson, a spokesman, declined to comment on VanBesien’s pay.

Philharmonic minimum musician salaries increased by 4 percent annually for the past five years, starting last season at about $140,000, according to a summary posted by the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians. That’s slightly below the minimums at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The Philharmonic’s chairman, Gary Parr, is vice chairman of the investment bank Lazard Ltd. VanBesien previously ran the Houston Symphony and was second French horn player at the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.

To contact the writer of this story: Philip Boroff in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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