Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Carnegie Hall: The Gold Standard

By Peter Hall

It was called "The Gilded Age." It was a time of great industrial growth in America (and great wealth, too) as evidenced by super-rich industrialists and philanthropists such as Rockefeller, Morgan, Stanford, Mellon, Vanderbilt and Andrew Carnegie - the steel magnate, who happened to meet New York City conductor Walter Damrosch onboard a ship. The leisurely pace of life at sea gave the younger musician time to interest his wealthy travel companions in the idea of a new concert hall in New York City, to be named, of course, Carnegie Hall.

In 1891, consistent with the spirit of the time, Carnegie Hall was not only to be lavish, but lavish in such a way as to prove to Europe that the United States was certainly her equal in the arts.  And, oh, what a success it was, right from opening night, when the great Tchaikovsky himself conducted along with Damrosch. Carnegie Hall was a symbol of excellence back then, and it still is today.  So when the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has been "invited back" to play at Carnegie on May 8, it is special and historic, and a moment when Buffalo can once again say to New York City, just as America said to Europe 122 years ago: "Our artists are equal to your artists. We all play on the world's stage."

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