NEW YORK—Jaap van Zweden, recently tapped as the next music director of the New York Philharmonic, has legally changed his name to “David Geffen” after an unusual contract agreement was reached that gave billionaire entertainment mogul David Geffen naming rights over the new maestro.
Geffen, a business magnate who earned his fortune in music and film production, made headlines last year when he put $100 million towards the renovation of Avery Fisher Hall, home to the New York Philharmonic for more than five decades. That donation led Lincoln Center to rename the building “David Geffen Hall.”
Now, he’s done it again. Earlier today, the conductor formerly known as Jaap van Zweden signed a ten-year, $50 million contract, making him the highest-paid symphony orchestra music director of all time. The landmark deal was facilitated by Geffen, who agreed to donate yet another large sum to Lincoln Center, this one earmarked to cover 100 per cent of the new maestro’s salary over the next decade.
In exchange for the generous gift, Lincoln Center included a clause in the contract permitting Geffen to rename the Dutch conductor, effective for the duration of his tenure. The name he chose was “David Geffen.”
David Geffen (née Van Zweden), originally from Amsterdam, first made his mark on the music world as a violin virtuoso. At 18, he became the youngest-ever concertmaster of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, a position he held for more than 15 years before pursuing his conducting career. Known for his intense and demanding style on the podium, Geffen II—who has previously held music director posts with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the Hong Kong Philharmonic—will succeed current New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert beginning in 2018.
Both Geffens appeared at a press conference this afternoon in front of the New York State Supreme Court building in Lower Manhattan, just after name-change proceedings had been finalized.
“It is a rare honor to be named music director of one of the world’s great orchestras,” said the new Geffen. “But it is perhaps even more special to be named ‘David Geffen,’ after one of classical music’s most generous donors.”
When asked by a reporter if it was “a bit overkill” to use his fortune to name not only a building, but an adult human being, after himself, the original David Geffen disagreed. “I don’t see a problem,” he said. “Look, if I gave you fifty million dollars to change your name to ‘David Geffen,’ wouldn’t you do it too?”
“Besides, ‘David Geffen’ is far easier to pronounce than ‘Jap Vaughan Zoolander,’ or whatever the hell his name used to be,” said Geffen I, pointing at Geffen II.
The entertainment tycoon went on to announce the New York Philarmonic’s opening night concert of its 2016-2017 season will feature David Geffen’s “Jupiter” Symphony in C Major, K. 551 and David Geffen’s “Concerto for Orchestra.”