conductor Walter Damrosch convinced Andrew Carnegie to build what would become
the famed Music Hall (renamed Carnegie
Hall in 1894), he needed a big name draw for the Hall’s opening
festivities. At the time, there were certainly very few names bigger than Tchaikovsky’s.
Russian composer loved traveling, and the lure of the New World was exciting
for him. He had a small notebook that he titled Trip to America, which was found in one of his suit pockets after
he died. On the first page, he wrote, “Things to ask. Is it safe to drink the
water in America? What kind of cigarettes do men smoke in New York City? What
kind of hats do they wear? Can I get my laundry done there? Check acoustics of
the new music hall.”
Tchaikovsky arrived in New York in 1891, he was wined and dined everywhere he
went. He couldn’t say enough about American hospitality. In his diary, he noted
that “in other countries, if somebody comes up to you and they’re nice, you
suspect, ‘What do they want?’ Here in America, they don’t want anything. They
just want to be nice.”
conducted five of his works during the Opening Festival of the Music Hall,
starting on Tuesday, May 5. He wrote that he was besieged by tourists and
people asking him for an autograph everywhere he went. His image was all over
the papers, and people would cut out his photo and ask him to sign the other
side. He usually included a musical quote, quickly notating a phrase from his
Suite No. 3, which he had conducted during the Opening Festival on May 7—his 51st
birthday. “People in the United States know my work better than they do in
Russia, in my own home,” he remarked. Here was Tchaikovsky in the
flesh, conducting his own music.
Gino Francesconi, director of Carnegie Hall's archives and Rose Museum,discusses Tchaikovsky's diligence in signing autographs during his visit to America to open Carnegie Hall in 1891.
Gino Francesconi, director of Carnegie Hall's archives and Rose Museum, recounts how Tchaikovsky was gratified that the US audiences were at least as knowledgeable about his music as the Russians.
Gino Francesconi, director of Carnegie Hall's archives and Rose Museum, reveals how the Tchaikovsky favorite—The Nutcracker—was very much on the composer's mind during his North American trip.
Gino Francesconi, director of Carnegie Hall's archives and Rose Museum, explores the connections between Carnegie Hall, New York, and Tchaikovsky.
Gino Francesconi, director of Carnegie Hall's archives and Rose Museum, relates how Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 and Carnegie Hall are closely connected.