Although Andrew Carnegie’s Music Hall officially opened on May 5, 1891, the very first notes played within its four walls emanated from a piano played by Franz Rummel, who performed in the lower-level Recital Hall (located where Zankel Hall sits today) a little more than a month earlier, on April 1.
The total cost of the land and construction was $1 million. Excavation began in June 1889, and the cornerstone was laid on May 13, 1890.
William Burnet Tuthill was the architect for Carnegie Hall, the first and only concert hall he designed.
Carnegie Hall’s architect William Burnett Tuthill, an amateur cellist, studied European concert halls famous for their acoustics, and consulted with architect Dankmar Adler, of the Chicago firm Adler and Sullivan, a noted acoustical authority. Drawing on his findings (and in some cases his own intuition), he eliminated common theatrical features like heavy curtains, frescoed walls, and chandeliers that could impair good sound distribution. Carnegie Hall’s smooth interior, elliptical shape, slightly extended stage, and domed ceiling help project soft and loud tones alike to any location in the hall with equal clarity and richness.
More than 46,000 events have taken place in Carnegie Hall’s three auditoriums since 1891.
Since our records are not 100% complete, and we do not
always have access to accurate biographical data on performers, the question of
youngest or oldest to appear at Carnegie Hall will most likely remain forever
unanswered. Drawing upon the information
we do have, we can say that on April 19, 1900, four-year-old Lolita Val de
Cabrera Gainsborg played piano in Carnegie Chamber Music Hall (today’s Weill
Recital Hall). On May 21, 1991, five-year-old David Gil played piano on the Cavalcade
of Stars benefit concert in the main hall (today’s Stern Auditorium
/ Perelman Stage). Pianist Eubie Blake was just weeks shy of his 98th birthday when he performed on the January 20, 1981, event One Night Stand: A Keyboard Concert. These performers are
among the youngest and oldest that we know of.
The New York Philharmonic has given more than 5,000 concerts at Carnegie Hall. The individual artist with the most performances is conductor Walter Damrosch, who appeared on nearly 850 concerts.
The origin of the joke will probably always remain a mystery, but the best explanation we’ve heard comes from the wife of violinist Mischa Elman. One day, after a rehearsal that hadn’t pleased Elman, the couple was leaving Carnegie Hall by the backstage entrance when they were approached by two tourists looking for the hall’s entrance. Seeing his violin case, they asked, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Without looking up and continuing on his way, Elman simply replied, “Practice.”
Although the Carnegie family pronounces their name CarNEgie (as befits their Scottish roots), the concert hall has always been known as CARnegie Hall.
Bill Haley and his Comets appeared in a variety benefit concert on May 6, 1955.
Jazz in its earliest form came to Carnegie Hall on May 2, 1912, with a performance by James Reese Europe and his Clef Club Orchestra. W. C. Handy presented an important early concert on April 27, 1928, featuring Fats Waller on piano and organ.
On February 13, 1893, African American soprano Sissieretta Jones performed in the main hall (today’s Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage), having previously appeared in the lower-level Recital Hall (today’s Zankel Hall) on June 15, 1892. In April and May 1892, pianist WT Talbert gave two recitals in the Chamber Music Hall (today’s Weill Recital Hall). While little is known about Talbert, we believe he may have been Thad Talbert, brother-in-law to Mary Burnett Talbert, a founder of the NAACP. Sharing his recital programs were Tillie Jones Thomas, soprano; Deseria Plato, mezzo-soprano; George Boardley, tenor; Walter Craig, violinist; and Henry T. Burleigh, noted composer, pianist, and baritone.
Hip-hop pioneers Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Melle Mel performed on a benefit concert on October 31, 1985, for the political documentary film, A Matter of Struggle.