• Tchaikovsky in America

    After 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.

    The 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.” 

    When 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.” 

    Tchaikovsky 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.

  • From the Archives: Tchaikovsky's Autograph

    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.

  • From the Archives: Marche Solennelle

    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.

  • From the Archives: The Nutcracker

    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.

  • From the Archives: Tchaikovsky, New York, and Carnegie Hall

     

    Gino Francesconi, director of Carnegie Hall's archives and Rose Museum, explores the connections between Carnegie Hall, New York, and Tchaikovsky.

  • From the Archives: The 6th Symphony and Carnegie Hall

    Gino Francesconi, director of Carnegie Hall's archives and Rose Museum, relates how Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 and Carnegie Hall are closely connected.