Interesting facts about Carnegie Hall

carnegie hall

Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States.

It is located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east side of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park.

Carnegie Hall, is one of the most prestigious venues in the world for both classical music and popular music.

Industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie paid for for the hall’s construction.

Carnegie Hall was designed in a Revivalist brick-and-brownstone Italian Renaissance style by William Tuthill, an amateur cellist who was a member of the board of the Oratorio Society of New York, along with Carnegie.

carnegie hall old photo

It was intended as a venue for the Oratorio Society of New York and the New York Symphony Society, on whose boards Carnegie served.

Construction began in 1890, and was carried out by Isaac A. Hopper and Company.

Although the building was in use from April 1891, the official opening night was May 5, with a concert conducted by maestro Walter Damrosch and great Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Originally known simply as “Music Hall” (the words “Music Hall founded by Andrew Carnegie” still appear on the façade above the marquee), the hall was renamed Carnegie Hall in 1893 after board members of the Music Hall Company of New York (the hall’s original governing body) persuaded Carnegie to allow the use of his name.

Carnegie Hall was actually owned by the Carnegie family until 1925, when Andrew Carnegie’s widow sold Carnegie Hall to a real estate developer.

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Hard though it may be to believe, this treasured New York landmark was in danger of demolition in the 1960s, after the New York Philharmonic orchestra moved its performances from Carnegie Hall to the newly-built Lincoln Center.

Under pressure from a group of musicians and cultural figures led by violinist Isaac Stern, special legislation was passed, and the city of New York purchased Carnegie Hall.

The nonprofit Carnegie Hall Corporation was created to operate Carnegie Hall, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, ensuring its safety forever.

Carnegie Hall has 3,671 seats, divided among its three auditoriums.

The Main Hall or Isaac Stern Auditorium is a five-level hall for 2,804 seats, which in 1997 was renamed in honor of the violinist Isaac Stern. The hall is enormously high, and visitors to the top balcony must climb 137 steps.

carnegie hall the main hall

To tackle the interior of the main hall, the architect, travelled to Europe to find out what makes a concert hall sound great. The result was a beautifully resonant performance space with simple, elegant styling that helps put the focus on the excellent acoustic environment.

carnegie hall isaac stern auditorium

The main hall was home to the performances of the New York Philharmonic from 1892 until 1962. Known as the most prestigious concert stage in the U.S., almost all of the leading classical music, and more recently, popular music, performers since 1891 have performed there.

Zankel Hall, which seats 599, is named for benefactors Judy and Arthur Zankel. Originally called simply Recital Hall, this was the first auditorium to open to the public in April 1891.

carnegie hall zankel hall

It was leased to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1898, converted to a cinema around 1959, and was reclaimed to be used as an auditorium in 1997.

The completely reconstructed Zankel Hall is flexible in design and can be reconfigured in several
different arrangements to suit the needs of the performers. It opened in September 2003 and has become one of the hottest places in New York City to see chamber music, recitals, and the latest contemporary sounds from classical, pop, jazz, and world music artists.

Weill Recital Hall seats 268 and is named for Sanford I. Weill, the chairman of Carnegie Hall’s board,
and his wife Joan.

carnegie hall weill recital hall

Weill Recital Hall, located on the third floor of Carnegie Hall, is an intimate, elegant place to hear music, and always has been; originally known as Chamber Music Hall, an 1891 reviewer singled it out for being “remarkable for the symmetry of its proportions and the beauty of its decorations.”

Weill Recital Hall is home each season to hundreds of recitals, chamber music concerts, panel discussions, and master classes.

The building also contains the Carnegie Hall Archives, established in 1986, and the Rose Museum, which opened in 1991.

Carnegie Hall has its own artistic programming, development, and marketing departments, and presents about 250 performances each season.

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Since it opened in 1891, Carnegie Hall has set the international standard for musical excellence as the aspirational destination for the world’s finest artists.

From Tchaikovsky, Dvořák, Mahler, and Bartók to George Gershwin, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Judy Garland, and The Beatles, an honor roll of music-making artists representing the finest of every genre has filled Carnegie Hall throughout the years.

The building was extensively renovated in 1986 and 2003, by James Polshek, who became better known through his post-modern planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.

Carnegie Hall joke:
Rumor is that a pedestrian on Fifty-seventh Street, Manhattan, stopped Jascha Heifetz and inquired, “Could you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” “Yes,” said Heifetz. “Practice!”  —  This old joke has become part of the folklore of the hall, but its origins remain a mystery.

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