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Philadelphia Orchestra Ends Its Brief Strike

Musicians in the Philadelphia Orchestra play outside the Kimmel Center, the orchestra’s home, after going on strike Friday.
Musicians in the Philadelphia Orchestra play outside the Kimmel Center, the orchestra’s home, after going on strike Friday.
Mark Makela for The New York Times 

The Philadelphia sound will sound again.

The Philadelphia Orchestra ended a brief strike on Sunday, two days after its musicians sent a shock wave through the classical music world by walking off the job just before a season-opening gala.

The players went on strike Friday to protest a contract offer that they said did not do enough to restore the pay and benefits lost amid the orchestra’s bankruptcy, which ended a little over four years ago.

But after returning to the bargaining table with a mediator on Saturday, the musicians and management agreed early on Sunday to a three-year contract that included a 2 percent raise in the first year and raises of 2½ percent in the second and third years.

The contract will bring the players’ base pay to $137,800 by the final year, the orchestra said, though many players make more. As part of the contract deal, the orchestra said, the musicians agreed to play more Sunday concerts and to give management more flexibility to stage pop-up concerts.

The musicians, who had planned to picket on Sunday, instead met to ratify the deal.

“There is some grave disappointment that the offer does not get us to where we need to be,” John Koen, a cellist who is chairman of the musicians’ negotiating committee, said. At the same time, he said, the final deal was an improvement over management’s original offer, and the players were eager to return to work. “We wanted to avoid harming the institution.”

Crucial committees of the orchestra’s board of directors voted unanimously to recommend the contract to the full board, which is expected to vote on it Tuesday.

Allison Vulgamore, the orchestra’s chief executive, said in a statement, “We now have a tentative agreement that will immediately restore our music to our audiences and provide our outstanding musicians with a compensation plan that both increases their base salaries and provides additional financial reward as we continue to build resources for a vibrant and exciting future.”

The agreement would also increase the orchestra’s size. Though the Philadelphia Orchestra historically had 105 musicians, it imposed a hiring freeze during the bankruptcy that initially held that number at 95, and then 96. The new contract calls for hiring a 97th player in the third year.

The orchestra’s season will resume on Thursday in Philadelphia, when Simon Rattle will conduct Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 in a program that the orchestra, known for its plush sound, will repeat on Oct. 10 at Carnegie Hall.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, which also walked out Friday, remained on strike Sunday.