What Makes Carnegie Hall So Special
Why is Carnegie Hall “the place” to perform? Two words: design and legacy. According to the Carnegie Hall website (a resource worth visiting), “its remarkable architectural design and incredible legacy has made Carnegie Hall a national historic landmark and vital cultural center.”
Although the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is no stranger to Carnegie Hall (it participated in the first public demonstration of stereophonic sound there in 1940 and presented a full concert in 1976), current members of the Choir and Orchestra are eagerly anticipating their first performance in the world-renowned hall.
Commissioned by Andrew Carnegie and designed by New York architect William Tuthill, Carnegie Hall is an elegant building with legendary sound. Tuthill—an amateur cellist who had never built a concert hall—eliminated common features like heavy curtains, frescoed walls, and chandeliers that might hamper good sound distribution and based his design on a smooth interior, elliptical shape, and domed ceiling that would help project tones to every seat with equal clarity and richness.
Carnegie Hall was completed in 1891, fourteen years after the dedication of the Salt Lake Tabernacle, another acoustically renowned building, and home to the Choir and Orchestra. Its opening celebration attracted New York socialites who paid $1-$2 to hear performances by the Symphony and Oratorio societies under the direction of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and others. A descendent of the Rockefellers who attended that first concert would pay $200 a ticket to hear the Choir and Orchestra perform this July. It’s obvious that more than inflation is at work in the value of the Carnegie Hall experience!
Tchaikovsky’s appearance on opening night set an important precedent for the hall. In following years an impressive array of classical musicians made it the preeminent concert hall in the United States: among them, pianists Sergei Rachmaninoff, Vladimir Horowitz, and Van Cliburn; violinists Jascha Heifetz, Isaac Stern, and Itzhak Perlman; cellists Pablo Casals and Yo-Yo Ma, and singers Enrico Caruso, Marian Anderson, Maria Callas, and Luciano Pavarotti.
And there simply isn’t room to name all the fine conductors and orchestras who have graced the stage of Carnegie Hall. Needless to say, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is honored to perform in this beautiful and acoustically superb space where so many talented musicians have left their legacy of excellence and great expectations.