For over 100 years, Carnegie Hall has been the mutual destination of musicians seeking the highest level of their profession and those who want to experience their efforts.
Whether your taste runs to classical or jazz, folk or pop, Carnegie Hall has hosted them all. Tchaikovsky guest conducted the first performance in 1891, but the decades after saw performances by Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Judy Collins, and many others.
The building gained its name as a consequence of being yet another offspring of the great industrialist and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. Completed in 1897, just over 100 years later Carnegie Hall offers not only the three original auditoriums but also a museum, tours, and (since 1990) an adjoining office tower.
The main hall is the main attraction. Enormously tall, visitors can climb as many 105 steps to the top. Elevators exist for the less hardy.
The acoustics are world-class, especially since the removal in 1995 of a concrete slab that some insisted altered the original sound. The late violinist Isaac Stern is said to have remarked: ‘It takes what you do and makes it larger than life.’
Thanks to his efforts the building was saved from demolition in the 1950s and achieved Landmark status in 1964. Stern Hall, the main hall named in his honor, seats 2,800.
The smaller auditoriums are also actively used.
Zankel Hall, which seats 599, has seen various uses since 1898. Converted to a movie theater in 1959 it reopened as a music venue in September 2003. Weil Recital Hall named for the renowned investment banker, Sanford Weil is the newest facility, opening in 2004. It seats 268.
The building also houses the Rose Museum and Carnegie Archives where visitors can find artifacts and memorabilia on display covering the history of the famous site.
The exterior of the building, while less interesting than the architecture and activity of the interior, is well worth a look. Done in Italian Renaissance-revival style, the brown terra-cotta gives the arena a look appropriate to its function.
And just next door was, until just a few years ago, the famous Russian Tea Room. Founded in 1926 by former members of the Russian Imperial Ballet, the restaurant was host to many movers and shakers over the decades.
Within its Russian red walls and samovar-decorated halls were fed some of Carnegie Hall’s stellar performers. Alas now closed, there are ongoing efforts to re-open the restaurant in some form.
Also, just around the corner is Steinway Hall – housing the maker of exquisite instruments often used by Carnegie’s pianists. Here are displayed some of the finest pianos in the world.
Carnegie Hall still holds over 100 performances a year, yet tickets are expensive and often hard to obtain for certain performances. Be sure to book well in advance to hear some of New York’s, and thereby the world’s, finest musical artists practice their craft.
Carnegie Hall is located just off the corner of 57th St and 7th Avenue in Manhattan.