Having planned it with his wife Louise and friend Walter Damrosch, Andrew Carnegie funded the construction of the new music hall that eventually bore his name. A staunch advocate for world peace, he appeared on “his” stage several times in that guise. Unlike any other Carnegie gift at that time, Andrew did not follow his “Carnegie Formula,” which sought other contributors (today’s matching gift). Rather, he continued to pay Carnegie Hall’s deficits alone until his death in 1919.
First Appearance: Robert Burns Anniversary Festival, January 25, 1892
Final Appearance: Address by Charles W. Eliot, January 24, 1913Detailed Appearance History >
Andrew Carnegie: Gilded Age Philanthropist
A member of the Oratorio Society of New York and a good friend of Walter Damrosch, Louise Carnegie became a driving force behind the realization of Carnegie Hall after her marriage to Andrew.
Louise was Andrew Carnegie’s most trusted confidant. “I can’t imagine myself without Lou’s guardianship,” he often said. He didn’t make one decision without first asking “Lou’s” opinion. In her quiet manner, she helped oversee one of the largest fortunes in US history, changing philanthropy forever.
Following her husband’s death in 1919, she retained the Hall for six years before selling it in 1925. Louise was an influential member of the board of the Carnegie Corporation of New York until her death in Manhattan on June 24, 1946, at the age of 89.
Along with Andrew and Louise Carnegie, Walter Damrosch was instrumental in the building of Carnegie Hall. Conductor of the Symphony Society of New York (later merged with the New York Philharmonic) and the Oratorio Society of New York, he performed nearly 850 times at Carnegie Hall over the course of half a century—an average of about 18 times per season—including the first concert for young people barely six months after the Hall opened. He remains the holder of the record for the most appearances by an individual in the 125-year history of Carnegie Hall. Damrosch’s final performance at the Hall was with the New York Philharmonic in 1942.
First Appearance: Opening Night of Carnegie Hall, May 5, 1891
Final Appearance: New York Philharmonic, March 27, 1942Detailed Appearance History >
Before Andrew Carnegie commissioned him to build one, William Burnet Tuthill had never designed a concert hall. Clearly, his lack of experience was no detriment: Not only did Tuthill conceive an elegant building, but his work also—and most notably—gave Carnegie Hall its legendary sound. To tackle the interior of the main hall, the architect traveled to Europe to find out what makes a concert hall sound great. The result was a beautifully resonant performance space with simple, elegant styling that helps put the focus on the excellent acoustic environment with innovations like open boxes and offset rather than vertically stacked tiers. Tuthill was so nervous on Opening Night that when he witnessed the crowds filling the Dress Circle and Balcony, he dashed home to review his calculations in fear that the levels may collapse. They stood and still stand.
The Birth of Carnegie Hall
The pre-eminent living figure in late–19th-century classical music, Tchaikovsky was identified as the person to launch the new Music Hall with sufficient celebrity and gravitas. He conducted his own Marche Solennelle on Opening Night in 1891 and performed on three further occasions during the Opening Week Festival. Tchaikovsky’s works have been performed many thousands of times in the intervening 125 years and the 100th anniversary of the Hall was marked by a special exhibition in the Rose Museum dedicated to the composer and his works.
First Appearance: Opening Night of Carnegie Hall, May 5, 1891
Final Appearance: New York Symphony Orchestra, May 9, 1891Detailed Appearance History >
Tchaikovsky at Carnegie Hall Video Playlist
Marian Anderson had a more than 70-year association with Carnegie Hall. Following her debut at the Hall in 1920, she appeared more than 50 times until the mid-1970s. In 1960, she became one of the original board members of The Carnegie Hall Corporation when the Hall was saved from demolition. She remained on the board until her death in 1993.
First Appearance: Concert by the Martin-Smith Music School, December 30, 1920
Final Appearance: Black History Makers Awards Ceremony, February 1, 1989Detailed Appearance History >
Marian Anderson—Seven Decades at Carnegie Hall and Beyond
For nearly six decades, Vladimir Horowitz’s career was intertwined with the history of Carnegie Hall. His 1928 debut with the New York Philharmonic was just the prelude to an astonishing recital career that included his triumphant 1965 comeback from a 12-year performing hiatus for which—in the pre-electronic ticketing age—all seats sold out in two hours. Although his final recital at Carnegie Hall happened in 1985, his final appearance was during a gala concert to celebrate the Hall’s reopening after seven months of renovation in 1986.
First Appearance: New York Philharmonic, January 12, 1928
Final Appearance: Gala Reopening of Carnegie Hall, December 15, 1986Detailed Appearance History >
Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall Playlist
Any artist’s Carnegie Hall debut is an auspicious occasion. In Benny Goodman’s case, January 16, 1938, was not only the debut of a major star, but it also marked the first time people sat in a concert hall to hear swing music rather than dance to it. Moreover, the Goodman band was one of the first racially integrated groups to perform in front of a paying audience. Following this watershed moment, Goodman returned to Carnegie Hall more than two dozen times, his final concerts taking place on June 25, 1982. Even following his death in 1986, however, Goodman influenced the history of the Hall. The donation of one of Goodman’s clarinets to the Carnegie Hall Archives in 1991 was the trigger for the creation of the Rose Museum.
First Appearance: Benny Goodman and His Swing Orchestra, January 16, 1938
Final Appearance: Kool Jazz Festival: Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, and Teddy Wilson, June 25, 1982Detailed Appearance History >
Even if he had played no role in the saving of Carnegie Hall from demolition, with more than 250 performances as recitalist and soloist stretching across six decades from 1943 through 2001, Isaac Stern would still be a major figure in the Hall’s history. The list of conductors under whom he performed reads like a who’s who from the latter half of the 20th century, among them Rodzinski, Mitropoulos, Stokowski, Szell, Walter, Ormandy, Bernstein, Schneider, Solti, Mehta, Barenboim, Rostropovich, Levine, Muti, Slatkin, Dutoit, and Ozawa.
Stern’s association with Carnegie Hall is now often more closely associated with his successful campaign to save it, culminating in 1960 with the New York City Board of Estimate approving the purchase of Carnegie Hall for $5 million. He continued to perform here regularly throughout the following four decades, his final performance taking place on June 9, 2001—a free concert as part of the Isaac Stern Chamber Music Workshop. Stern passed away just more than three months later on September 22, 2001. Carnegie Hall’s main auditorium was dedicated in his honor in 1997.
First Appearance: Solo Recital, January 8, 1943
Final Appearance: Isaac Stern Workshop: Free Public Concert, June 9, 2001Detailed Appearance History >
By the time he made his wartime Carnegie Hall debut on January 23, 1943, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was already a star. A driving interest in long-form composition found it’s expression at that debut when he premiered his jazz symphony Black, Brown, and Beige, which he introduced as “a tone parallel to the history of the Negro in America.” The success of his debut and his new approach to jazz composition led to Ellington’s series of annual Carnegie Hall concerts, on which he always premiered at least one new work. The music at his April 4, 1968, concert was overshadowed when, prior to the start of the concert, civil rights leader Robert Moses made an announcement from the stage that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot just an hour and a half earlier in Memphis. The concert continued as a dedication to the memory of Dr. King. Ellington’s final Carnegie Hall concert—of more than 20 in total—took place on July 8, 1972, two years before his death.
First Appearance: Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, January 23, 1943
Final Appearance: Newport Jazz Festival: Duke Ellington, July 8, 1972Detailed Appearance History >
Leonard Bernstein—“Lenny”—famously made his Carnegie Hall debut on November 14, 1943, substituting on a few hours’ notice for the ailing Bruno Walter, who was scheduled to conduct the New York Philharmonic. Between 1943 and 1990, Bernstein appeared at the Hall nearly 450 times as conductor, pianist, composer, and educator—including the famous televised Young People’s Concerts. His Opening Prayer was the first-ever Carnegie Hall commission and his work has been performed at the Hall more than 700 times. The maestro’s final appearance was on March 3, 1990, conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
First Appearance: New York Philharmonic, November 14, 1943
Final Appearance: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, March 3, 1990Detailed Appearance History >
Leonard Bernstein’s brother, Burton, remembers the legendary Carnegie Hall debut.
Although she first sang here earlier that year, Ella Fitzgerald’s headling debut at Carnegie Hall was as part of a concert that included two other giants of jazz—Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker—on September 29, 1947. Between 1947 and 1991, the “First Lady of Song” went on to perform multiple times. Fitzgerald’s final concert at the Hall—and New York City—was in 1991 as part of George Wein’s JVC Jazz Festival. The New York Times review of that final concert called her “a singer whose singing always promised effortless, endless possibility.” Her famous 1972 live recording from the Hall was as part of Wein’s Newport Jazz festival, which had temporarily been relocated to New York. A pair of Fitzgerald’s trademark spectacles are on display in the Rose Museum at Carnegie Hall.
First Appearance: Midnight Jazz Concert: Pittsburgh Courier Poll Winners, March 16, 1947
Final Appearance: JVC Jazz Festival: Ella Fitzgerald, June 27, 1991Detailed Appearance History >
All digital portraits by Stanley Chow © Carnegie Hall.
Vladimir Horowitz, Ella Fitzgerald, and Isaac Stern by Steve J. Sherman.
William Burnet Tuthill courtesy of Helen Paterson.
Benny Goodman’s clarinet by Chris Lee.Ella Fitzgerald’s spectacles by Richard Termine.Three-sheet poster for the Benny Goodman 1938 concert: Franklin M. Heller, Photographer/Carnegie Hall ArchivesGoodman on stage at Carnegie Hall, 1938: Gift of Lawrence Marx/Carnegie Hall ArchivesAll other images are courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives