The history of Carnegie Hall

Tunde FolawiyoCarnegie Hall is one of the world’s most famous concert venues; it’s a landmark that most regular visitors to New York, including Tunde Folawiyo, will be familiar with. Located on Seventh Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, the building itself was designed by William Tuthill, who chose to base his creation on the Neo-Italian Renaissance style of architecture. The hall was opened to the public in the summer of 1891, with Pyotr Tchaikovsky serving as conductor for the performances held during the first week. Over the next few decades, many other famous musicians graced its stage, and the venue became the main base for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, until the group moved to the Lincoln Centre in the early 1960s.

While many kinds of musicians have performed there, Carnegie Hall is perhaps best known for hosting some of the world’s most talented pianists. Rubenstein played at the venue on countless occasions, as did Horowitz, Cliburn and Hofmann. However, even during its early years, the hall was not used exclusively for classical performances; jazz was also growing in popularity in the early 20th century, and there were some spectacular concerts given by the Clef Club Orchestra during this period. As time went on, a whole host of other jazz legends played at Carnegie Hall, including John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong.

Although it is the calibre of the musicians who have played at Carnegie Hall that has made it the world-renowned venue it is today, the remarkable design of the building is undoubtedly a factor in its fame. It is one of the last remaining buildings in the city made only of masonry, without any steel used in its structure. As an architecture enthusiast, Tunde Folawiyo may know that the exterior consists of ochre-coloured Roman bricks, combined with brownstone and terracotta, contrasting starkly with the foyer, which is made up of grey stone and white plaster, dramatic rounded lunettes and Corinthian pilasters.

The hall was almost torn down in 1959, after it was found that the Philharmonic’s decision to move to another base would dramatically reduce the venue’s profits. However, Alice and Jacob Kaplan, two music patrons, worked with Isaac Stern to run a campaign to prevent the demolishment, and in 1960 the building was purchased by the city.

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