Many of the NYP's directors have had to deal with threats to its standing among the world's great orchestras: competition on stages and on records from other, strong American orchestras; internal and external economic difficulties; and balancing the traditional with new music in a way that satisfies its core audience. However, commissioning and introducing new works is a long-held tradition. Memorable premieres include Dvorák's New World Symphony; Gershwin's Concerto in F; the Pulitzer Prize-winning On the Transmigration of Souls by John Adams; Esa-Pekka Salonen's Piano Concerto; and The Jungle, which is Wynton Marsalis' fourth symphony. The NYP commissioned a new work by Julia Wolfe, Fire in My Mouth, giving its premiere in 2019 and receiving a Grammy nomination for its release.
The orchestra has performed in more than 430 cities in 63 countries, which includes its first tour after merging when Toscanini took it to Europe in 1930 and a trip to the USSR in 1959. In 2008, Lorin Maazel led it in a historic concert in Pyongyang, North Korea, the first significant cultural visit to the country by an American organization since the 1950s. The NYP hosts several free concerts each year, operates outreach programs in the city, and partners with select music schools in the U.S. and China.
The NYP's recording history dates back to 1917, counting over 2,000 releases, many of them award winners, with hundreds of them available at any given time. As many other orchestras have done, it has created its own label, releasing live concert recordings physically, and was the first to do so digitally as well, also offering podcasts and other new media. It hosted its first Facebook Live concert in 2016. Its Leon Levy Digital Archives contains every program printed since 1842, plus scores marked by musicians and conductors.