As Women's History Month 2013 draws to a close, Carnegie Hall's Museum Director and Archivist Gino Francesconi recalls the woman without whom the Hall would most likely never have been built.
"I am the unknown wife of a somewhat well-known businessman." —Louise Carnegie, 1895
Andrew Carnegie's most trusted confident was his wife Louise. "I can't imagine myself without Lou's guardianship," he often said. He didn't make one decision without first asking "Lou's" opinion. In her quiet manner, she helped oversee one of the largest fortunes in US history, changing philanthropy forever. But it didn't start off that way. In fact, it almost didn't start at all.
Andrew met Louise Whitfield when he was 45 and she was 23. He was one the most famous bachelors in the US with a value of $20 million ($350 million in today's dollars) and growing. His merged steel companies would become the largest corporation on earth. He had semi-retired and moved from Pittsburgh to New York City, taking a large suite of rooms at the Windsor Hotel for himself and his mother Margaret. She was a formidable woman and Carnegie was devoted to her. While he had seen several women as potential marriage partners, inevitably they all ended the same. Margaret felt there was no woman good enough for her "Andra." Louise would change that, but it took nearly a decade.
Louise Whitfield was born in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan on March, 7, 1857. Her parents, John and Fannie, descended from families that emigrated from England in the 1600s. The Henry Whitfield House in Guilford, Connecticut, is one of the oldest houses in America, dating from 1639—just 19 years after the arrival of the Pilgrims.
Louise's father was a textile merchant. As he prospered he moved the family from Chelsea to Gramercy Park (where one of Louise's playmates would be Teddy Roosevelt) and finally to a comfortable brownstone uptown on West 48 Street and Fifth Avenue—two blocks away from the Windsor Hotel. Andrew met John Whitfield through a mutual friend and enjoyed his company. He made frequent visits to the Whitfield home; during one of those visits, he met Louise. They shared a love of riding horses and he invited her often to Central Park. During these rides, she let it be known she didn't want to marry someone who was already successful, but rather help a husband to succeed. He let it be known that he had no intention of holding on to his fortune, but rather wished to give it all away.
They formed a strong friendship, then romance, and became engaged. Then Margaret stepped in. Louise realized that Andrew would not marry while his mother was alive; four years after their meeting, the engagement was called off. But not the friendship. After nearly a year of corresponding, they decided to renew their engagement, but kept it a secret from Andrew's mother.
Andrew and Louise Carnegie. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.
In the fall of 1886, Andrew contracted typhoid fever; inconceivably a week later, his brother Tom became ill with pneumonia. While Andrew's condition fluctuated, Tom's rapidly deteriorated and he died on October 19 at the age of 43, leaving behind a wife and nine children. Margaret, already ailing, could not bear the news of the illnesses of her two sons and died three weeks later on November 11 at the age of 77. She was not told of Tom's death and Andrew was not told of his mother's death for nearly three weeks until he was fully recovered.
Andrew and Louise were married five months later on April 22, 1887. Unusual for the day, Louise signed a prenuptial agreement, renouncing any claims to Andrew's millions. Andrew in return gave her stocks and bonds, amounting to an independent annual income of $20,000 ($350,000 in today's dollars). They were married quietly in her father's home with 30 friends and family members in attendance. An hour later, they boarded the Fulda for their honeymoon in Great Britain. On board, Louise introduced Andrew to Walter Damrosch, a friend and conductor of the Oratorio Society and the New York Symphony Orchestra. Carnegie Hall lore has Louise singing in the alto section of the Oratorio Society. Damrosch and his father Leopold shared a dream of a concert hall for these two organizations. Andrew was a donor to both organizations. On their Atlantic crossing the idea of what would become Carnegie Hall was born.
An anniversary greeting thank you card from Andrew and Louise Carnegie. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.
Unlike any other Carnegie gift at that time, Andrew did not follow his "Carnegie Formula," which sought other contributors (today's matching gift). Rather, he continued to pay Carnegie Hall's deficits alone until his death in 1919, which speaks more of his love of Louise than his keen business sense.
They were married for 32 years, had one child named Margaret, and Louise was an influential member of the board of The Carnegie Corporation until her death in Manhattan on June 24, 1946, at the age of 89.
Related: Hall History
On April 17, the young Georgian violinist Lisa Batiashvili joins the Staatskapelle Dresden and conductor Christian Thielemann for an all-Brahms evening.
Here—in addition to some sneak peeks at their gorgeous rendering of Brahms's Violin Concerto—Batiashvili discusses her violin and her work on the Brahms concerto with MaestroThielemann and the orchestra, in addition to revealing an affinity for Clara Schumann.
Lisa Batiashvili discusses her violin and her work on Brahms's Violin Concerto with Christian Thielemann and the Staatskapelle Dresdenl, in addition to revealing an affinity for Clara Schuman.
A couple of snippets of what the audience for this concert—and the Brahms Violin Concerto, in particular—can expect.
Related: April 17, Staatskapelle Dresden
As her Carnegie Hall and New York recital debut approaches, we spoke with Latvian mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca about the love-themed program for the concert, her preparations, and her inspirations. What emerged was a picture of an artist who loves to perform lied and who refuses to become complacent about her artistry and career.
Elina Garanca: I am very excited. After being in New York so many times in opera repertoire, I can finally do something that I dearly love as well—lied. I'm a bit nervous as well, because in a lied recital you are all alone on stage and can't hide behind colleagues or costumes. You are 2x40 minutes non-stop on stage. But I love lied because one finally has all the time on earth to make the words run or walk in the tempo you want.
EG: I generally like to put themes in my recitals. My "cornerstone" for this recital was Schumann's Frauenliebe und -leben, which is probably my favorite lied cycle at the moment. So the rest of the program was chosen around that. The fact that everything is in German was not intentional, just coincidence.
EG: I think it's the fact, as I said above, that you are alone on stage with a pianist, and both of you have all the time to create whatever you two want. I am very happy that Kevin has agreed to accompany me because he really feels the voice and breathes with a singer. Specifically in lied recital, that's the A-B-C. When we met for the first time and did some songs together, I told him, "See you in recital! We don't need to rehearse because you feel and hear everything that I do, and I feel that I am carried on your hand through every song."
EG: For me, it is like preparing a new role. I start with reading the text and imagining how it would go with other songs. I see music in pictures and colors. For me, it's very important to have a "painting" in my head for each song. I also sometimes need to "re-locate" my voice with a finer tuning because often in opera you get used to big orchestral sounds or big stages, like the Met—4,000 people—one needs a very well-projected voice to be able to be heard up to the top balcony. So in lied, in my opinion, everything is much more delicate. Sometimes I need to develop a bit more stamina, because in opera you sing a duet or aria, then you rest, then there is the ensemble, but in lied, there is solo after a solo. And it's nice to finish the recital and still have your voice in fresh condition.
EG: I would never be able to name one or two. I am inspired by every singer, every colleague of mine who goes in front of an audience and wants to create music. I look up to all the artists who are not stopped by their successes, but want to look for new ideas and achievements. I always thought and still think that nobody is perfect for every repertoire, so there are some singers that I like more in Strauss, some more in Brahms, and some more in Verdi. I think the key is to find whatever you are looking for yourself. Of course I listen to some recordings, but it's not to copy them—it's for ideas, but I cannot always apply them to my voice because every voice is different and every emotional world is different.
EG: Recordings for me are little memories of something that was real at that moment. Unfortunately or fortunately I am very rarely satisfied with myself. Listening to recordings of mine from the past and being satisfied would mean that I don't hear the possible improvement or development that I would be able to achieve today. I could say, for example, the Met's Carmen DVD was a great experience—and I am quite proud of it—but its not my favorite ... there are too many things that today I would be doing differently. The same applies to any CD or any HD transmission. I truly believe that music is an emotional and musical experience of the moment; a recording will never be able to capture it at its best, because we can't record the aura of the theater, the energy of the public or vibrations in the air.
Related: April 6, Elina Garanca | Kevin Murphy
Last week we posted part one of two videos from composer Ray Lustig in advance of the world premiere performance of his Latency Canons by American Composers Orchestra on April 5.
Here, continuing a short video series leading up to the concert, the composer concludes his discussion of the piece—one of five world premieres that will take place in Zankel Hall that night—revealing some of the technical difficulties experienced when developing the piece, and soliciting advice from pioneering electronic music composer Morton Subotnick.
Ray Lustig discusses his Latency Canons—Part 2: Finding Guidance.
Related: April 5, American Composers Orchestra: coLABoratory: Playing It UNsafe
We've compiled a few of the photos of Carnegie Hall, inside and outside, that you've posted to Instagram this month. We love photos, but remember to only take them before or after a performance, or during intermission.
[View the story "Carnegie Hall: Instagram Edition" on Storify]
Committed to innovative performances and recordings of today’s music, Alarm Will Sound returns to Zankel Hall on April 6. With a reputation for performing demanding music with energetic skill, this wildly inventive group premieres new works by former Battles singer and guitarist Tyondai Braxton, Dublin-based Crash Ensemble founder Donnacha Dennehy, and AWS founding member John Orfe, as well as compositions by David Lang and Charles Wuorinen.
Here, Braxton provides a brief insight into his composition Fly By Wire, a Carnegie Hall commission that receives its world premiere that night.
Fly By Wire is the technology that 1) translates a pilot's manual movements to digitally control modern aircraft, 2) acts as an auto pilot, and 3) is constantly stabilizing the aircraft without the pilot's input. Stabilization through turbulence is something of an apropos description in composing music. For me, it's always a balancing act with the elements I'm working with: not too much, not too little (usually too much) ... having the piece be this, but not this ... wouldn't it be amazing if this happened in order ... shatter this ... all without the piece doing a barrel roll. For instance, there's a sort of mariachi-like section in the middle. Maybe I should counter that with flourished romanticism in the strings later on, paired with some Varèse-ish percussion. Mayday! Mayday!
Also: I'm terrified of flying.
Related: April 6, Alarm Will Sound
Playing It Unsafe is American Composers Orchestra's next musical laboratory. Composers pursue no-holds-barred explorations that challenge their creative capacities and stretch the limits of what is possible with an orchestra. New pieces, selected through a nationwide search, are born from a unique incubation process of workshops, public readings, and collaborative feedback.
Two of the pieces that emerged from Playing It Unsafe are Latency Canons by Ray Lustig and Judith Sainte Croix's Vision V. Both receive their world premieres in Zankel Hall on April 5. In a short video series leading up to the concert, the composers discuss their works.
Here, in part one of two from Ray Lustig, the composer discusses his Latency Canons.
Ray Lustig discusses his Latency Canons—Part 1: Establishing Latency.
Kick off the first day of spring with a Carnegie Hall deal! Today only, we are offering 50% off balcony seats to readers of our blog. Use promo code SPR16565 when purchasing tickets to either of the two incredible performances below*:
Jeremy Denk, PianoFriday, March 22 at 7:30 PMBuy Tickets >
Jeremy Denk is an extraordinary musician whose intelligent programs leave audiences both amazed by his virtuosity and stimulated by his musical depth. Simply put, he is “a pianist you want to hear no matter what he performs” (The New York Times). On this program, he plays works by Liszt, Bach, Beethoven, and Bartók.
Jeremy Denk reveals his approach to selecting which works to perform in recital and explains how he prepares those works for performance.
Dmitri Hvorostovsky, BaritoneWednesday, March 27 at 8 PMBuy Tickets >
Baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky “is redolent of luxury: beautiful tone, pinpoint intonation, elegant and impassioned delivery” (The New York Times). One of our true classical-music superstars, Hvorostovsky returns to Carnegie Hall with his frequent musical collaborator, Ivari Ilja.
Dmitri Hvorostovsky performs Rachmaninoff's "Again I am alone," which appears on the program for his March 27 concert.
*This discount is valid March 20 from 11 AM to 11:59 PM EST. Limit eight tickets per purchase. Selected seats and limitations may apply. Offer is subject to availability and prior sale, is not valid on prior purchases, and cannot be combined with any other discounts or promotions. Valid online, by phone, or at the Box Office. No refunds or exchanges. Internet and phone orders are subject to standard convenience fees.
Related:March 22, Jeremy DenkMarch 27, Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Pianist Jeremy Denk—a regular visitor to Carnegie Hall—is an extraordinary musician whose intelligent programs leave audiences both amazed by his virtuosity and stimulated by his musical depth. Here, in advance of his March 22 concert here, Denk reveals his approach to selecting which works to perform in recital and explains how he prepares those works for performance.
Related: March 22, Jeremy Denk
In advance of its May 2013 concerts at Carnegie Hall, Spring for Music has created a MOOC—massive open online course—which it has dubbed S4MU, or Spring For Music University.
In essence, S4MU 2013 is a four-week course in how to listen smarter.
The MOOC consists of four classes running weekly during April:
1. April 1: The Dark Art of Programming
2. April 8: Best Orchestras in the Land?
3. April 15: Famous Like Me
4. April 22: Smart Listening
S4MU instructors include Baltimore Symphony Orchestra conductor Marin Alsop; Douglas McLennan, editor of ArtsJournal; public relations legend Mary Lou Falcone; Jennifer Higdon, composer; vocalist Storm Large; and conductor Leonard Slatkin, among others. However, anyone who participates in the S4MU, will help teach the course by sharing experiences, asking questions, and contributing to wikis and discussion boards.
More information about S4MU 2013 is available here.
To register for S4MU 2013, use the simple signup form here.
Douglas McLennan introduces S4MU.
Related:Spring For Music 2013 S4MU 2013
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