The orchestra was founded by Ureli Corelli Hill in 1842 and played its first concert on December 7 of that year, when Beethoven's Fifth Symphony was performed. There had been other orchestras in New York before, but none of them had survived for very long. The NYPO, however, became successful, and grew in popularity and size throughout the 19th century. By the end of that century, there were several other orchestras in New York competing with it, as well as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which made regular visits to New York.
In 1893, the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Anton Seidl, gave the world premiere of Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 9, From the New World, which helped to raise its international profile. However, it was with the orchestra's reconstitution as a full time professional organisation in 1909 that it really took off. Gustav Mahler, now remembered as a composer, but then one of the most sought after conductorss in the world, became the newly professional orchestra's first music director.
The New York Philharmonic has often commissioned new pieces from modern composers, and has been at the forefront of technical advances as well. In 1922, it was the first major orchestra to give a live concert broadcast on radio (a first also claimed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra). In 1930, it was the first to give such a broadcast across all America. These broadcast performances have continued to modern times.
The orchestra was officially housed in Carnegie Hall until 1963, then it moved to its current home of Avery Fisher Hall which is part of Lincoln Center in New York City. In June 2003, the Philharmonic announced its plan to return to Carnegie Hall by 2006; reasons for the move include Carnegie Hall's superior sound quality and the uncertainty resulting from ongoing plans to build a new auditorium in Avery Fisher Hall.
The orchestra has had many distinguished conductors. Amongst its principal conductors and music directors, it can count Gustav Mahler, Arturo Toscanini, Bruno Walter, Leopold Stokowski, Leonard Bernstein, and Pierre Boulez. From 1978 until 1991, Zubin Mehta was the principal conductor. He was succeeded by Kurt Masur. As of 2003, Lorin Maazel currently holds the post.