With a Pickup Truck and an Open Mind, the Philharmonic Returns


The NY Phil Bandwagon, conceived by Mr. Costanzo, is bringing the orchestra out of its dormancy. The truck — a Ford F-250 decorated in Philharmonic red, white and black, with touches like a gas cap cover that says “PHIL ’ER UP” — will drive to three unannounced locations each Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the next eight weeks, with small ensembles performing chamber works and recently commissioned premieres.

There is little flexibility in a concert at Geffen Hall; with the program and players planned a year in advance, only encores are unexpected. The Bandwagon, however, is designed to be endlessly adaptable — to weather, crowds or, in the case of Friday’s debut, a demonstration that necessitated a change of venue. A performance can be cut short or extended; repertoire can change at any moment. The series came together quickly and remains a work in progress, especially as organizers work to grow a list of community partners in all five boroughs. A refrain on the first day: “We’re learning as we go.”

The day began around 2 p.m. with a soundcheck across the street from Lincoln Center, facing the rear of the Metropolitan Opera and an entrance to the parking garage. Several crew members set up the microphones and lights, helped by Mr. Costanzo and DeAnne Eisch, the orchestra’s personnel manager, who sanitized each stand and seat.

Everyone’s temperature was checked upon arrival, and they were tested for Covid-19 in advance. Adam Crane, the Philharmonic’s vice president for external affairs, described them as being in “a test bubble”; only those in the bubble can touch the equipment, ride in the truck or take part in the performance.

Once the string trio — Ms. Ziskel, Ms. Phelps and the cellist Sumire Kudo — arrived, they played excerpts from the program: movements of works by Beethoven and Dohnanyi, as well as the Simon premiere and, with Mr. Costanzo, vocal music by Handel, Purcell and Gershwin.

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