Carnegie Hall (, also frequently or ) is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park.
Designed by architect William Burnet Tuthill and built by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1891, it is one of the most prestigious venues in the world for both classical music and popular music. Carnegie Hall has its own artistic programming, development, and marketing departments, and presents about 250 performances each season. It is also rented out to performing groups. The hall has not had a resident company since 1962, when the New York Philharmonic moved to Lincoln Center's Philharmonic Hall (renamed Avery Fisher Hall in 1973).
Other concert halls that bear Carnegie's name include 420-seat Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg, West Virginia; 1928-seat Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on the main site of the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh; 1022-seat Carnegie Music Hall annexed to Pittsburgh suburb Homestead's Carnegie library; and Carnegie Hall, a 540-seat venue, in Andrew Carnegie's native Dunfermline.
Carnegie Hall venues
Carnegie Hall presented about 200 concerts in the 2008 2009 season, up 3 percent from the previous year. Its stages were rented for an additional 600 events in the 2008 2009 season.
Carnegie Hall contains three distinct, separate performance spaces:
The Main Hall (Isaac Stern Auditorium/Ronald O. Perelman Stage)
Carnegie Hall's main auditorium seats 2,804 on five levels. It was named for violinist Isaac Stern in 1997. The Main Hall is enormously high, and visitors to the top balcony must climb 137 steps. All but the top level can be reached by elevator.
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. After years of heavy wear and tear, the hall was extensively renovated in 1986 (see below).
Zankel Hall, which seats 599, is named for Judy and Arthur Zankel. Originally called simply Recital Hall, this was the first auditorium to open to the public in April 1891. Following renovations made in 1896, it was renamed Carnegie Lyceum. It was leased to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1898, converted into a cinema around 1959, and was reclaimed for use as an auditorium in 1997. The completely reconstructed Zankel Hall, which is flexible and can be reconfigured in several different arrangements, opened in the space in September 2003.
Weill Recital Hall
Weill Recital Hall, which seats 268, is named for Sanford I. Weill, the chairman of Carnegie Hall's board, and his wife, Joan. This auditorium, in use since the hall opened in 1891, was originally called Chamber Music Hall (later Carnegie Chamber Music Hall); the name was changed to Carnegie Recital Hall in the late 1940s, and finally became Weill Recital Hall in 1986.
The building also contains the Carnegie Hall Archives, established in 1986, and the Rose Museum, which opened in 1991. Studios above the Hall contain working spaces for artists in the performing and graphic arts including music, drama, dance, as well as architects, playwrights, literary agents, photographers, and painters. In 2007, the Carnegie Hall Corporation announced plans to evict the 33 remaining studio residents, some residing in the building since the 1950s including celebrity portrait photographer Editta Sherman, to re-purpose the space for educational facilities.
A closeup view of Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall is one of the last large buildings in New York built entirely of masonry, without a steel frame; however, when several flights of studio spaces were added to the building near the turn of the 20th century, a steel framework was erected around segments of the building. The exterior is rendered in narrow Roman bricks of a mellow ochre hue, with details in terracotta and brownstone. The foyer avoids contemporary Baroque theatrics with a high-minded exercise in the Florentine Renaissance manner of Filippo Brunelleschi's Pazzi Chapel: white plaster and gray stone form a harmonious system of round-headed arched openings and Corinthian pilasters that support an unbroken cornice, with round-headed lunettes above it, under a vaulted ceiling. The famous white and gold interior is similarly restrained.
Carnegie Hall is named after Andrew Carnegie, who paid for its construction. 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 on May 5, with a concert conducted by maestro Walter Damrosch and composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Originally known simply as "Music Hall" (the words "Music Hall founded by Andrew Carnegie" still appear on the fa ade 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. Several alterations were made to the building between 1893 and 1896, including the addition of two towers of artists' studios, and alterations to the smaller auditorium on the building's lower level.
Andrew Carnegie, 1913
The hall was owned by the Carnegie family until 1925, when Carnegie's widow sold it to a real estate developer, Robert E. Simon. When Simon died in 1935, his son, Robert E. Simon, Jr. took over. By the mid-1950s, changes in the music business prompted Simon to offer Carnegie Hall for sale to the New York Philharmonic, which booked a majority of the hall's concert dates each year. The orchestra declined, since they planned to move to Lincoln Center, then in the early stages of planning. At the time, it was widely believed that New York City could not support two major concert venues. Facing the loss of the hall's primary tenant, Simon was forced to offer the building for sale. A deal with a commercial developer fell through, and by 1960, with the New York Philharmonic on the move to Lincoln Center, the building was slated for demolition to make way for a commercial skyscraper. Under pressure from a group led by violinist Isaac Stern and many of the artist residents, special legislation was passed that allowed the city of New York to buy the site from Simon for $5 million (which he would use to establish Reston, VA), and in May 1960 the nonprofit Carnegie Hall Corporation was created to run the venue. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962.
Most of the greatest performers of classical music since the time Carnegie Hall was built have performed in the Main Hall, and its lobbies are adorned with signed portraits and memorabilia. The NBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Arturo Toscanini, frequently recorded in the Main Hall for RCA Victor. In the fall of 1950, the orchestra's weekly broadcast concerts were moved there until the orchestra disbanded in 1954. Several of the concerts were televised by NBC, preserved on kinescopes, and have been released on home video.
Many legendary jazz and popular music performers have also given memorable performances at Carnegie Hall including Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Judy Garland, Harry Belafonte, Nina Simone, Shirley Bassey, James Gang and Stevie Ray Vaughan, all of whom made celebrated live recordings of their concerts there.
On June 15, 1892 Sissieretta Jones became the first African-American to sing at the Music Hall (renamed Carnegie Hall the following year). On January 16, 1938, the Benny Goodman Orchestra gave a sold-out swing and jazz concert that also featured, among other guest performers, Count Basie and members of Duke Ellington's orchestra.
Rock and roll music first came to Carnegie Hall when Bill Haley and his Comets appeared in a variety benefit concert on May 6, 1955. Rock acts were not regularly booked at the Hall, however, until February 12, 1964, when The Beatles performed two shows during their historic first trip to the United States. Promoter Sid Bernstein convinced Carnegie officials that allowing a Beatles concert at the venue "would further international understanding" between the United States and Great Britain. Since then numerous rock, blues, jazz and country performers have appeared at the hall every season. Ike and Tina Turner performed a concert there April 1, 1971, which resulted in their album "What You Hear is What You Get". The Turners' album featured their bombastic twelve minute rendition of "Proud Mary". The Beach Boys played concerts there in 1971 and 1972, the last of which has since been heavily bootlegged (Two songs from the show appeared on their Endless Harmony Soundtrack). Chicago recorded their mammoth 4 LP box set "Chicago at Carnegie Hall" in 1971. Pink Floyd played Carnegie Hall on May 1 and 2, 1972, performing selections from what would become The Dark Side of the Moon (called "Eclipse" at the time). A bootleg recording from these performances has been widely circulated.
Renovations and additions
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. Polshek and his firm, Polshek Partnership, were involved since 1978 in four phases of the Hall's renovation and expansion including the creation of a Master Plan in 1980; the actual renovation of the main hall, the Stern Auditorium, and the creation of the Weill Recital Hall and Kaplan Rehearsal Space, all in 1986; the creation of the Rose Museum, East Room and Club Room (later renamed Rohatyn Room and Shorin Club Room, respectively), all in 1991; and, most recently, the creation of Zankel Hall in 2003.
Carnegie Hall Elevation
The renovation was not without controversy. Following completion of work on the main auditorium in 1986, there were complaints that the famous acoustics of the hall had been diminished. Although officials involved in the renovation denied that there was any change, complaints persisted for the next nine years. In 1995, the cause of the problem was discovered to be a slab of concrete under the stage. The slab was subsequently removed.
In 1987 1989, a 60-floor office tower, named Carnegie Hall Tower, designed by Cesar Pelli & Associates, was completed next to the hall on the same block. New backstage space and banquet spaces, contained within the tower, connect with the main Carnegie Hall building.
Carnegie Hall Tower
In June 2003, tentative plans were made for the Philharmonic to return to Carnegie Hall beginning in 2006, and for the orchestra to merge its business operations with those of the venue. However, these plans were called off later in 2003.
The Executive and Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall (from July 2005) is Sir Clive Gillinson, formerly managing director of the London Symphony Orchestra.
The Carnegie Hall Archives
Unexpectedly, for most concert-goers, it emerged in 1986 that Carnegie Hall had never consistently maintained an archive. Without a central repository, a significant portion of Carnegie Hall's documented history had been dispersed. In preparation for the celebration of Carnegie Hall's centennial (1991), the Carnegie Hall Archives was established.
Carnegie Hall joke
An old joke has become part of the folklore of the hall. One of the earliest print versions of the joke runs as follows:
- 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!"
The hall's operating budget for the 2008 2009 season was $84 million. For 2007 2008, operating costs exceeded revenues from operations by $40.2 million. With funding from donors, investment income and government grants, the hall ended that season with $1.9 million more in total revenues than total costs.
The hall's employee who oversees props was paid $530,000 in salary and benefits during the fiscal year that ended in June 2008. The four other members of the full-time stage crew two carpenters and two electricians had an average income of $430,000 during that period. By comparison, the top highest paid non-union employees were the Artistic and Executive Director, Clive Gillinson, who was paid $946,000 in salary and benefits; the Chief Financial Officer, at $352,000, and the General Manager, at $341,000.
World premieres at Carnegie Hall
- List of museums and cultural institutions in New York City
- List of concert halls
- Judy at Carnegie Hall
- Benny Goodman and his Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, January 16, 1938
Chicago at Carnegie Hall 1971 four LP vinyl box set by the rock band Chicago
- Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones, first African-American to sing at Carnegie Hall
- Alliance for the Arts Advocacy organization for Carnegie Hall
- Richard Schickel, The World of Carnegie Hall, 1960.
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