Tunde Folawiyo | The history of Carnegie Hall

Carnegie 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 a 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 Philharmonic Orchestra, until the group moved to the Lincoln Centre in the early sixties.

Tunde FolawiyoWhilst many types of musicians have performed here, Carnegie Hall is perhaps best known for hosting some of the world’s most talented pianists. Rubinstein played here on countless occasions, as did Horowitz, Casals and Hofmann. However, even during its early years, the hall was not used exclusively for classical performances; jazz was also growing in popularity during 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 here, 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 which has made it the world-renowned venue that 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 gray 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 demolition, and in 1960, the building was purchased by the city.

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