What did Arturo Toscanini, Woodrow Wilson, Martha Graham, and Albert Einstein have in common? They all appeared at Carnegie Hall. You can uncover this information and tons more when you explore Carnegie Hall’s new online Performance History Search, recently added to carnegiehall.org/history.
This exhaustively researched database holds records of every event—both musical and non-musical—presented in the public performance spaces of Carnegie Hall since its 1891 opening. That’s information on nearly 50,000 events, including performances of classical, jazz, pop, and world music, featuring more than 88,000 artists and over 80,000 musical works, all available directly to the public for the first time. The sheer volume of information means that records must be released in installments; the first, available now, covers the period between 1891 and 1941, with more than 12,500 events. More will be released on a regular schedule.
Since Carnegie Hall’s Archives was only established in 1986, the Hall’s archivists have gathered much of the data covering the Hall’s earliest years from period program booklets, advertisements, ticket stubs, and other ephemera. It’s possible you won’t see a record of every concert or event that took place at the Hall because the document recording it is still at large. So do check your attic and garage and poke around flea markets, because you might uncover a long lost Carnegie Hall performance record that fills a gap!
We hope that this new online search tool will become an invaluable musicological tool, providing a view of performance practices, standards, and programming choices as they have evolved over the past 122 years. To name only one example, there’s a record of a 1911 New York Philharmonic concert conducted by Gustav Mahler, featuring music by Stanford, Elgar, MacDowell, Loeffler, and a composer named Henry Hadley. These are hardly composers we associate with Mahler the conductor, but they are also an interesting example of changing musical tastes. Stanford is rarely programmed in the US these days, nor are MacDowell , Loeffler, and Hadley.
Searching is easy, and can be done by Keyword, Composer, Work, Performer, Date, or Date Range. Did you know Richard Strauss made his US debut and appeared at Carnegie Hall several times from late February to the end of March 1904? Key in “Richard Strauss” in the performer or composer search and the details pop up. Results can also be filtered by venue or genre; and search results can be saved, shared through a link, or exported to a PDF.
You can get delightfully lost poking around in the Performance History Search, and also settle some trivia bets. Which of his own works did John Philip Sousa conduct as his Carnegie Hall debut concert? Sheridan’s Ride, on January 23, 1893. What was the occasion for Andrew Carnegie’s first speech at his namesake hall? A memorial for writer Robert Louis Stevenson on January 4, 1895.
The non-musical events in the Hall’s early history were chiefly lectures, films, civic meetings, debates, political, religious rallies, dramatic readings, and so many other things that informed and entertained Americans before the rise of radio and the birth of television, offering a unique view of American history. There was a fascinating January 14, 1913, lecture by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen (the man credited with discovering the South Pole), with Robert E. Peary (the man who claimed to have led the first expedition to discover the North Pole) on the same bill. Both poles covered in one evening!
Anyone seeking further information about the Performance History Search or who wishes to share information on Carnegie Hall–related material can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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