Music: Starting Over

Even before it opened in 1962, the late conductor George Szell pronounced Philharmonic Hall, the first building in Manhattan's Lincoln Center, a disaster. "Tear it down and start over!" he cried. But that was unthinkable. The house had everything money ($19.7 million) could buy. It was an austere, stately structure of travertine and glass. There were comfortable plush chairs and, most significant musically, 106 panels suspended from the ceiling to diffuse sound waves for maximum — it was hoped — acoustical excellence. They did not do the job. The sound was dry, weak in bass, lacking...

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