Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Manhattan, New York City. It is one of the most significant venues for classical as well as popular music in the US, known not just for its beauty and history but also for its fine acoustics.
Carnegie Hall is actually made up of three distinct structures and presents a fairly confusing internal structure. There are three auditoriums: the Main Hall, the Recital Hall and the Chamber Music Hall.
The Main Hall
The Main Hall can currently hold an audience of 2,804 in five levels of seating. For reasons explained below, the Main Hall is now officially called the Isaac Stern Auditorium.
The Main Hall is greatly admired for its warm, live acoustics, and it is commonplace for critics to express regret that the New York Philharmonic plays at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center and not in its former home in Carnegie Hall. "It has been said that the hall itself is an instrument," the late Isaac Stern once remarked. "It takes what you do and makes it larger than life."
The Main Hall is enormously tall, and visitors to the top balcony must climb 105 steps. All but the top level can be reached by elevator.
Most of the greatest performers of classical music since the time the hall was built have performed in the Main Hall, and its lobbies are adorned with signed portraits and memorabilia.
The smaller halls
The two smaller halls, now named the Judy and Arthur Zankel Hall and the Joan and Sanford L. Weill Recital Hall, seat 650 and 268 people respectively. The two largest auditoria were given their names in 1986 following an extensive renovation. The smallest hall had been leased to the AADA in 1898, converted to a cinema around 1959. It was reclaimed to be used as an auditorium in 1997 and opened in September 2003. The site also contains the Rose Museum and the Carnegie Hall Archives, both relatively recent additions.
Carnegie Hall was designed in a revivalist brick and brownstone Italian Renaissance style by William Burnet Tuthill . Although Tuthill's is not a familiar name, the success of the building is largely due to his design.
Carnegie Hall is one of the last large buildings in New York built entirely of masonry, without a steel frame. The exterior is rendered in narrow "Roman" bricks of a mellow ochre hue, with details in terracotta and brownstone. The foyer avoids contemporary Baroque theatrics with a high-minded exercise in the Florentine Renaissance manner of Filippo Brunelleschi's Pazzi Chapel: white plaster and gray stone form a harmonious system of round-headed arched openings and Corinthian pilasters that support an unbroken cornice, with round-headed lunettes above it, under a vaulted ceiling. The famous white and gold interior is similarly restrained.
Carnegie Hall is named after Andrew Carnegie, who paid for its construction. Construction began in 1890, and was carried out by Isaac A. Hopper and Company. Although the building was in use from April 1891, the official opening night was on May 5, with a concert conducted by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Work on the building continued until 1897.
The hall was owned by the Carnegie family until 1924, when Carnegie's widow sold it to a real estate developer, Robert E. Simon. By 1960, with the New York Philharmonic on the move to the Lincoln Center, there were plans to demolish the building and replace it with a commercial building. Under pressure from a group led by Isaac Stern, the city of New York bought the site in 1960 for $5 million and leased it to a nonprofit corporation. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964. The dilapidated building was extensively renovated between 1983 and 1995, by James Polshek , who became better known through his post-modern planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.
Despite the landmark status of Carnegie Hall, plans for a commercial building were not entirely scrapped. In 1987-1989, a 60-floor office tower, named Carnegie Hall Tower, was completed next to the hall on the same block.
The Carnegie Hall archives
Unexpectedly, for most concert-goers, it emerged in 1986 that Carnegie Hall had never consistently maintained an archive. Without a central repository, a significant portion of Carnegie Hall's documented history had been dispersed. Advertisements and stories in the media about how Carnegie Hall was scouring basements and attics to recover its history elicited an overwhelming response from the public, who had been keeping their old programs: artifacts began arriving from all over the world. Vast amounts of material, including over 12,000 programs, have been recovered, enabling the Archives to reconstruct much of Carnegie Hall's history.
Location and folklore
Carnegie Hall is located at the southeast corner of Seventh Avenue and 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park. A very old joke has become part of the folklore of the hall: Q: "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" A: "Practice, practice, practice." The Directions page of the Carnegie Hall Web site gently alludes to the joke.
- Richard Schickel, The World of Carnegie Hall, 1960, recounts all the lore.
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