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Carnegie Hall: 120 Years, Thousands Of Great Performances

Carnegie Hall in 1891, the year it opened with a concert featuring Tchaikovsky conducting.

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Carnegie Hall in 1891, the year it opened with a concert featuring Tchaikovsky conducting.

Carnegie Hall Archives

Tonight, Carnegie Hall pulls out all the stops to celebrate the beginning of its 120th season. There's a starry gala this evening, a snazzy new mobile app and a lavish coffee-table book chronicling the venue's history. (Frankly, one does wonder what's in store for the bigger anniversary five years from now.)

Although the dates don't actually line up as the venue opened in May 1891, Carnegie Hall is making much of the fact that Tchaikovsky came all the way to America to conduct his Marche Solennelle at Carnegie's very first concert, and stuck around to lead several more of his pieces later in that inaugural week. Overbooked composers of any era might empathize with Tchaikovsky's plan, which was simply to re-title the Coronation March he had written for Czar Alexander III and pass it off as a new work. He was caught — but the piece was performed anyway.

At any rate, Tchaikovsky looms very large at the start of Year 120. Russia's fabulous Mariinsky Orchestra from St. Petersburg and conductor Valery Gergiev start a residency tonight to traverse much of Tchaikovsky's orchestral output, with Yo-Yo Ma as guest star this evening to play Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme.

But the Russian focus doesn't stop there; next Tuesday, we'll have a live webcast of Gergiev and the Mariinsky at Carnegie, playing Shostakovich's First Symphony, selections from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet and Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the newest winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition, Daniil Trifonov, as soloist. Stay tuned.

Carnegie Hall Over The Years

Cover for Concert of the Century: Celebrating the 85th Anniversary of Carnegie Hall

Tchaikovsky, Carnegie Hall And America

  • from Concert of the Century: Celebrating the 85th Anniversary of Carnegie Hall
  • by Leonard Bernstein

Carnegie Hall archivist Gino Francesconi on Tchaikovsky's trip to America.

Carnegie Hall YouTube
Cover for Tchaikovsky & Mendelssohn: Violin Concertos

Heifetz Plays Tchaikovsky

  • from Tchaikovsky & Mendelssohn: Violin Concertos
  • by Jascha Heifetz

There's not much good to say about the 1947 melodrama flick 'Carnegie Hall' — in its review at the time of its release, the New York Times called it "hackneyed and maudlin" and "one of those soggy fables" — but boy, there were some good performances sprinkled therein, including this one with violinist Jascha Heifetz playing Tchaikovsky.

Jascha Heifetz plays Tchaikovsky in the film "Carnegie Hall."

divinerabit YouTube
Cover for Artur Rubinstein: Carnegie Hall Highlights

Rubinstein in 'Carnegie Hall'

  • from Artur Rubinstein: Carnegie Hall Highlights
  • by Artur Rubinstein

Another performance from the 1947 'Carnegie Hall' film, this time with pianist Artur Rubinstein. Be sure to stick around past the Chopin Polonaise for de Falla's 'Ritual Fire Dance.'

Artur Rubinstein playing Chopin and De Falla in the film 'Carnegie Hall.'


Marilyn Horne at Carnegie Hall's Centennial Gala, 1991

  • from Beautiful Dreamer
  • by Marilyn Horne

Here's Marilyn Horne singing a medley of Americana, including Aaron Copland's setting of the Shaker tune "Simple Gifts," at the hall's centennial gala in 1991, with James Levine conducting.

Marilyn Horne singing Copland and more at the hall's centennial gala, 1991.


Pianist George Li

  • from Bach
  • by

Carnegie Hall is still where emerging artists yearn to make their mark. Here's pianist George Li at age 11, playing Liszt at Carnegie's Zankel Hall for the NPR program 'From the Top.' Li, who is now 16, recently won the extremely prestigious Gilmore Young Artist Award — and played at the White House for the Obamas and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Pianist George Li, performing at Zankel Hall at age 11.

ClassicalKids YouTube

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