Take a leap through time and compare a photo of Carnegie Hall’s facade taken in 1960 to another taken a few weeks ago in 2015. The photo taken in 1960 shows the building undergoing a steam cleaning, as well as a Nedick’s that occupied the corner of 57th Street and 7th Avenue for a short period in time.
Drag the slider below to compare the two images.
Pianist Stephen Hough confesses that Chopin’s “first Ballade seems to be one of the most brilliantly constructed pieces in the entire repertoire.” Watch more as Hough discusses the music of Chopin and Debussy.
Claudio Monteverdi brought a virtuosity usually reserved for secular music to his Vespro della Beata Vergine (Vespers of the Blessed Virgin). Dramatic, ecstatic, and full of breathtaking melodies, daring vocal special effects, and vibrant instrumental color, the Vespers—as they are popularly called—are one of the towering masterpieces you’ll hear in Before Bach. Whether you are new to early music or a dedicated fan, an aficionado of choral or solo vocal music, a believer or a non-believer, the power and beauty of Monteverdi’s Vespers will keep you mesmerized.
Vespers (the evening service of the Christian daily prayer cycle) were major musical events during the celebrations of saints’ feast days in the 17th century. Monteverdi’s were published in 1610, along with his setting of a Mass in the old Renaissance style. Together the works commemorate the Virgin on her chief feast days. A typical vespers service contains an introit (a kind of introduction to the service), five psalms (typically framed by chant), a hymn, and the Magnificat (the Virgin’s song of praise).
In Monteverdi’s published edition of 1610, there are two Magnificat settings—one for a large ensemble and one for a smaller one. He also included four spectacular vocal concertos (motets for one, two, and three voices) and a sonata with voices. Monteverdi had a remarkable talent for interpreting text through his music. He was a master composer of passionate madrigals and operas, and his Vespers burn with similar intensity.
The fusion of both sacred and secular forms in this piece is both a novelty and a cause for scholarly debate as to whether the work was conceived as a whole or is instead an amalgam of existing works Monteverdi decided should be published together. This is only one of the scholarly questions surrounding the piece, though its quality has never been in dispute.
Monteverdi’s Vespers are a marvelous introduction to 17th-century vocal music because he incorporates a vast range of styles and techniques that make the music of the period so unique. These include the exotic trillo, the rapid-fire repetition of a note used for dramatic effect; thrilling passages for massed voices punctuated by early wind instruments, such as cornetts and sackbuts; and echo and spatial effects. All of these fireworks rest on bedrock of sweet melodicism and high drama.
From its majestic opening to its brilliant closing Magnificat, the Vespers are superb; here are some moments to look out for:
“Nigra sum” (“I am dark”) sets a text from the Song of Solomon and is a tour de force for tenor. Impassioned recitative, dramatic repetition of key words, and other operatic devices make this a stunning showpiece. “Pulchra es” (“You are beautiful”) is also taken from the Song of Solomon—many of these love poems were used in services devoted to the Virgin—and is a breathlessly beautiful duet for two sopranos that showcases Monteverdi’s sublime melodicism. “Audi coelom” (“Hear, Heaven”) uses an unforgettably dramatic echo technique popular in 17th-century secular music, where the last note of a solo line is repeated by a second voice singing a different word.“Nisi Dominus” (“Unless the Lord”) is a show-stopping setting of Psalm 126 for two five-part choirs. The texture and tone of the opening chorus is breathtaking, with cascading waves of music flowing from the full complement of voices and instruments. The central section is noteworthy for the exchanges between the two choirs—choir one sings a verse and choir two repeats it—and the finale reunites the full ensemble for a stirring finale. Sonata sopra “Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis” (“Holy Mary, pray for us”) is a dazzling piece for instruments and soprano voices. A lengthy instrumental introduction sets the stage for massed soprano voices singing a supplication to the Virgin with Monteverdi spinning a set of dazzling variations on the tune.“Ave Maris Stella” (“Hail, star of the sea”) is a popular Marian hymn, and Monteverdi puts on a virtuoso show by setting each of its seven verses for various combinations of voices, including settings for double choir and solo voices. The verses are separated by instrumental interludes and the hymn is capped by a powerful “Amen.” The Magnificat was set twice in the 1610 edition. Both are remarkable for their virtuosity, color, and the dexterity with which Monteverdi treats the Magnificat chant tone by weaving it into the texture of each verse.
Tune in and join us on the evening of Thursday, April 16—live from Carnegie Hall—as Music Director and gambist Jordi Savall leads Le Concert des Nations in a program featuring works by the giants of French baroque music.
The colorful instrumental ensemble of diverse instruments that was developed in 17th-century France became the standard of the Baroque world. This concert features music by the giants of the French Baroque, from Marin Marais—the 17th century composer whose life story was the subject of Tous les matins du monde, the film for which Jordi Savall provided the soundtrack that propelled him to international celebrity—to18th-century instrumental innovators like François Couperin, Jean-Philippe Rameau, and Jean-Marie Leclair. This concert is part of the month-long Before Bach artistic focus.
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Le Concert des NationsThursday, April 16 at 7:30 PM (EDT)
Le Concert des Nations
Jordi Savall, Director
ANON. Concert donné a Louis XIII en 1627 (selected by André Danican Philidor)
·· Les ombres
·· Air pour les mesmes
·· Les nimphes de la grenouillere
·· Les bergers
·· Les Amériquains
SAINTE-COLOMBE Concert a deux violes égales
LULLY Selections from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme
·· Marche pour la cérémonie des turcs
·· Premier air des Espagnols
·· Deuxième air des Espagnols
·· Chaconne des scaramouches
COUPERIN Prelude from Deuxième concert royal
COUPERIN Muzette from Troisième concert royal
COUPERIN "Chaconne légère" from Troisième concert royal
MARAIS Sonnerie de Ste-Geneviève du Mont-de-Paris
RAMEAU Pièces de clavecin en concert, Cinquième concert
FORQUERAY "La du vaucel"
FORQUERAY "La Leclair"
LECLAIR Sonata in D Major, Op. 2, No. 8
Today marks the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's assassination. In the years that followed what became the crime of the 19th century in America, there have been former generals and officers—both Union and Confederate—who spoke on the stage of Carnegie Hall. These historical figures are listed below with a link to their associated program found on our Performance History Search.
When Audra McDonald made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1998 with the San Francisco Symphony, she was already halfway to her record-setting sixth Tony Award. That performance was coincidentally in a suite from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, a work in which she would star 14 years later and earn a fifth Tony. In addition to Ruth Younger in A Raisin in the Sun and Billie Holiday on Broadway (Tonys four and six, respectively), her portfolio of accomplishments includes a handful of critically acclaimed recordings, four seasons in the TV drama Private Practice, and a turn as Mother Superior in the live telecast of The Sound of Music. After a three-year hiatus, she returns to Carnegie Hall this month for her 19th appearance, along with a more seasoned perspective on her role as an entertainer and an enhanced appreciation of her place in history.
What can you share about your upcoming Carnegie Hall performance?
I’m looking forward to debuting a new program at Carnegie Hall—a wide-ranging collection of songs, many of which I’ve never sung before. It’s been a rewarding challenge to sift through potential repertoire with my music director, Andy Einhorn, who’s such a wonderful collaborator. He has great taste, impeccable musicianship, and he’s very patient!
For you, how does the concert stage differ from Broadway?
In stage performances, you have the opportunity to live through your character’s entire dramatic arc without significant interruption, and you have to calibrate your performance—and maintain your physical and emotional stamina—accordingly. For concerts, you are able to be yourself and interact with the audience. Whether on the concert or Broadway stage, there really is nothing quite like the experience of live performance—there’s a visceral thrill that you can’t get anywhere else. I’m most fulfilled when I feel like there’s been a connection with the audience—something shared, something learned, something received. I want people to feel like they are in my living room and vice versa.
Throughout your Broadway career, you have had several classic, iconic roles—most recently Bess and Billie Holiday. Conversely, you have also championed new works by contemporary composers. Do you have a preference?
I’m someone who looks for challenges, whether they come from old or new works. I’ve been so fortunate that the right artistic project always seems to fall in my lap at the right time—when I need to learn something. When I’m looking for new material, it’s important that the song or role speaks to me and most importantly, that I can sing it. I’m constantly looking for things that scare me, that challenge me, and that help me grow as an artist.
“I actually really like the variety, which is why I don’t limit myself to one particular genre.”
One favorite from your recorded repertoire is “Stars and the Moon.” When you perform the song now more than 15 years after you recorded it, is it more of a souvenir from your earlier career or does its meaning continue to evolve?
I was in my late 20s when I recorded Jason Robert Brown’s “Stars and the Moon” from his show Songs for a New World for my first solo release on Nonesuch, Way Back to Paradise. I had just won my third Tony for Ragtime and I think I was just really beginning to process my career and success when I recorded it. One of the many special things about “Stars and the Moon” is its timeless message that no amount of money can buy happiness. Ultimately, it’s our relationships that enrich us and keep us grounded. Whenever I perform it, I am constantly reminded how lucky and grateful I am for my amazing friends and family. As you grow older and life happens and happens to you, life becomes more precious, and people in your life become more precious. I find that I’m learning not to take things for granted as much as I used to and prioritizing what’s most important.
Some recognize you from non-musical projects like Private Practice, in which you played Dr. Naomi Bennett. That same TV audience was stunned by your performance of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” in the live broadcast of The Sound of Music. Do reactions like that surprise you?
Working on Private Practice was an amazing experience and definitely introduced me to a new audience. I’d go to the airport and people would call out, “Naomi, Naomi!” That is something I never experienced when I was on Broadway. It was a little jarring at first, but then I thought that if people recognize me from television and then follow my face to Carnegie Hall or Broadway and this inspires them to attend live performances on a more regular basis, then I’ve done my job.
With such a multifaceted career, can you pinpoint one creative outlet in which you are most comfortable, in which you are your most authentic self?
I actually really like the variety, which is why I don’t limit myself to one particular genre. All of us have multiple interests—it’s what brings us fulfillment on a human level. One nourishes and feeds into the other. When you’re singing, you’re also making acting choices, and when you’re filming a scene for television, for example, you find an almost musical rhythm to your interactions with the other actors. Singing makes me a better actor and vice versa.
You have won more Tony Awards than any other person. There’s so much talk about being the first woman to do this, the first minority to do that, and so on. Is being the first of anything an accomplishment in and of itself?
It’s not so much about being the first as it is about helping to pave the way for a new generation. I stand on the shoulders of the great women who came before me, including Ruby Dee, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Maya Angelou, and Diahann Carroll. I think it’s always great when women and minorities support each other and lean in, asking for what they want and deserve. I’ve learned over the years that achievement takes a village and does not come easy.
How does your childhood dream of performing compare to your reality today?
I knew that I wanted to perform on Broadway since I was nine years old. My dream was just to be in one Broadway show—no matter how small the role—so needless to say that what’s happened since has surpassed all of my wildest expectations.
In this video, soprano Dorothea Röschmann says that pianist Mitsuko Uchida is like “a magician.” Watch Röschmann discuss performing and what it’s like working with Uchida.
Don't miss their joint concert on Wednesday, April 22 in a program of Schumann and Berg.
Watch the dazzling pianist Yuja Wang perform an excerpt of Scriabin's Fantasy in B Minor, Op. 28.
The performance footage was taken on December 11, 2014 in Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage. Watch more performance videos captured on Carnegie Hall stages.
Leslie Stifelman and Melissa Rae Mahon first met while working together on the musical Chicago. Now married with a child, the Broadway couple presents “Take the Stage with Broadway Stars,” an interactive concert in which the audience is invited to learn the music and dance moves for favorite hits from Grease, Rent, Hairspray, and more. We sat down with Leslie and Melissa to talk about the upcoming concert, working together on Broadway, and living together as a family.
What are you most excited about for this production?
Leslie Stifelman: This is a very special concert for us because we have the incredible honor of making our Carnegie Hall debut together. In addition to that awesome distinction, we will be onstage with more than 40 of our favorite colleagues and best friends. We have a special connection with everyone on the stage, which will create quite a lot of excitement. Plus, Jessie Mueller will be performing with us and we are her biggest fans.
We saw that you share a Twitter handle called @BroadwayMoms. How has working together on Broadway affected your family life?
Melissa Rae Mahon: Truth be told, it’s all we’ve ever known so it seems completely normal. And we feel very lucky and grateful that we get to spend so much time together working on projects that we are so passionate about.
Which song from “Take the Stage with Broadway Stars” resonates most with your family?
LS: We both have a very strong connection to the song “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music. This was Melissa’s very first Broadway show, for which she served as the assistant choreographer and had the special responsibility of training the kids who played the von Trapp children. There is nothing like the first time you see the movie with Julie Andrews, or sing those songs. That experience is something you carry with you all your life.
"Do-Re-Mi" from the 1965 film of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music
How has having your own child influenced the creation of this family concert? Do you think your son will follow in your footsteps and work on Broadway?
MRM: As much as we love to perform and be onstage, we take so much pride in being teaching artists and helping kids of all ages realize their own potential and goals. We don’t know whether our son will ultimately be a performer, but seeing the effect music has on his early development confirms our belief that artistic education is paramount for young people. It is astounding how much music affects his world and helps him in almost every area of his life.
What do you want families to take away from this interactive concert experience on April 18?
LS: We both have had the privilege to do creative work through Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. Many of those events leave both performers and audience members with a sense of community and family that is rarely found anywhere else. Families who sing together share a very special bond with each other, and hopefully they can bring that sense of community home with them. It may sound a little heady, but sharing music and dance in this way—with this special “you-can-do-it-too” participation—is a powerful motivator to make good things happen everywhere.
What was life during the 16th century like? According to conductor Peter Phillips, there were very little distractions. In this video, Phillips discusses what life and music was like in the 16th century.
Carnegie Hall brings together a month-long focus on the exciting music written before 1685. Whether it is the divine purity and amusing bawdiness of Renaissance madrigals or the dramatic urgency of early Baroque opera, the music speaks to modern listeners who love great music and relish the joy of discovery. Learn more about Before Bach.
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