A Brief History
Since 1905, the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts has continuously presented free, outdoor classical music concerts to New Yorkers of all walks of life. Named after founder and philanthropist Elkan Naumburg, who donated the Naumburg Bandshell to New York City in 1923, and inspired by his own ardent love of music, the series seeks to stimulate and encourage new and expanded audiences for classical music in the informal and beautiful setting of Central Park.
In late nineteenth century New York, Mr. Naumburg felt a need to encourage and stimulate the public’s interest in symphonic and semi-classical music. In 1873, Naumburg helped found the Oratorio Society of New York in the family parlor where Leopold Damrosch, Theodore Thomas, and Marcella Sembrich, among others, played weekly in the 1870’s, 80’s & 90’s. Mr. Naumburg’s wife, Bertha, gave that group its name. Elkan’s son, Walter, further reinforced the family tradition of supporting classical music when he established the Walter W. Naumburg Prize in 1926, as did his grand-niece, Eleanor Naumburg Sanger, who co-founded WQXR, New York’s classical music radio station. In 1912, the Concert Ground’s earlier Central Park Bandstand was deemed inadequate. Elkan’s replacement greatly improved the conditions for musical performance over the earlier facility. A nephew, William G. Tachau, designed the building in 1916.
After Elkan Naumburg’s death in 1924, his sons, Walter W. Naumburg and George W. Naumburg continued the park concerts. When Walter W. Naumburg died in 1959, his will provided for the perpetuation of these concerts.
Today, the concerts feature promising new talent and promote the professional development of young composers and conductors. It is the oldest such concert series in the United States. The Naumburg Orchestral Concerts is a non-profit organization managed by a volunteer board of trustees; contributions towards its programs are fully tax-deductible.