This spring, Ensemble ACJW performs a series of three concerts at National Sawdust, one of New York City’s most cutting-edge new music venues. ACJW fellow Andrea Casarrubios talks about the thought process behind programming the first concert in the series—taking place on March 29—which features the world premiere of her work, Speechless, which she wrote especially for Ensemble ACJW.
Ensemble ACJW’s show on March 29 is one of the concerts I have been most looking forward to, and it is finally taking shape. The idea for the evening is to provide a safe and inspiring space where listeners and performers can enter the venue and feel as if they just stepped out of their world—perhaps a noisy and hectic one. My hope is that by creating this space for an hour, everyone will have the mental and physical time to observe life and art from a different perspective through the music we share.
The evening starts with the world premiere of a composition I wrote for this occasion, dedicated to Ensemble ACJW. This piece was largely inspired by experiences I had during the past two years as a part of ACJW. The work, Speechless for cello and percussion, was born out of a question I’ve asked myself many, many times: “What does it mean to have a voice?” In the piece, the performers embark on a playful, yet desperate search. At its core, it is an experience based on a non-verbal discussion between the inner voices of one’s self.
We continue with works by Jay Wadley, Svante Henryson, Missy Mazzoli, and John Cage. We are curious to witness how the performance and experience of Cage’s 4’33” will be affected by the pieces that precede it.
We complete the program with the New York premiere of “R.S.” from Three Phantasy Pieces by Claude Baker, and a string trio by Dobrinka Tabakova entitled Insight.
I once did a private tour for a young couple from Ottawa. They were both music teachers and he had arranged it so he could propose to her at Carnegie Hall. When we got up to the Dress Circle, I said, ‘Why don’t you go down to the front row?’ They went down and he proposed. All the kids in their school know which seats they were in when that happened!”
The man telling this story is Jeffery Albert, one of the docents who give guided tours of Carnegie Hall and its many treasures. “I love giving the tours,” he says. “I love watching the people when they first see Stern Auditorium and Perelman Stage.” He’s bumped into Yo-Yo Ma in the corridor – an event that nearly made a tourist faint. He’s swapped jokes with Emanuel Ax. And he has many stories to tell.
“There’s so much history, and it’s so rich and varied. I remember hearing Charles Mingus at Carnegie Hall – it was very different to hear him here. When I saw him, he played a musical saw! I used to attend the Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts in the Solti years, and their horns would make the whole house shake.”
These tours usually end with the Rose Museum. “One of my favorite things is in the museum. When Tchaikovsky was here for the opening of the Hall, he went to a dinner. And it was such a big meal, one that would have had ice cream or sherbet between courses to cleanse the palate. When the ice cream course came, there was a box with a ribbon and there was a little oval with his music on it. He autographed a lot of these and one of them is in the museum. Not too many people know about that.”
This article first appeared in Carnegie Hall: 125 Years of an Iconic Music Venue’s Most Remarkable People and Memorable Events, available at carnegiehall.org/125th_Anniversary_Magazine.
Carnegie Hall Heroes is a behind the scenes look at the unsung heroes of the Carnegie Hall family. Today we look at Jeff Albert, one of the docents who give guided tours of Carnegie Hall.
Cantus is known worldwide for its engaging performances of music that ranges from the Renaissance to the 21st century. In a recent Neighborhood Concert, the all-male vocal ensemble explored the different forms of expressing love as described by the Ancient Greeks—eros, storge, agape, and philia. Watch the concert in its entirety below.
This concert was captured on Sunday, November 8 at Our Saviour's Atonement Lutheran Church as part of Carnegie Hall's Neighborhood Concert series.
In the video below, pianist Yefim Bronfman discusses Prokofiev’s Seventh Piano Sonata. The second of his three so-called “War Sonatas,” it remains the most popular of the trilogy. This sonata was premiered by pianist Sviatoslav Richter and was one of the most memorable and well-received musical events during the War years. Bronfman performs Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 7 in B-flat Major on Saturday, May 7 in Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage.
Learn more about Prokofiev's piano sonatas.
Violist Danny Kim and pianist Michael James Smith joins the stage with Ensemble ACJW alum and clarinetist Liam Burke in a performance of Schumann's Märchenerzählungen, Op. 132.
Learn more about Ensemble ACJW
Watch Ensemble ACJW performs Timo Andres's Piano Quintet. This footage was captured on October 19, 2015 in Weill Recital Hall.
Learn more about Ensemble ACJW.
The digitization of the Carnegie Hall Archives and the Digital Hall of Fame initiative bring the great venue’s past into the present—and the future. Martin Cullingford discovers how.
Every organization has a story to tell. Few, however, are as significant to an understanding of New York’s cultural life over the past century and a quarter as that of Carnegie Hall. From its foundations in a then-far-from-fashionable quarter in 1891 to its place at the pinnacle of performance today, its story is interwoven with that of music-making itself.
And it’s a story that Carnegie Hall strongly believes shouldn’t reside purely in climate-controlled cabinets or in photos lining the walls en route to an auditorium. It wants to make sure it is accessible to everyone. And what better way to do that than by placing it on the Internet?
The project to digitize Carnegie Hall’s archive is now a few years old. It stemmed from the 100th anniversary of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, founded by Andrew Carnegie himself for “the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.” It was looking for important projects to support, and digitizing Carnegie Hall’s archive and making it widely available perfectly fit that brief.
But first some history, if you’ll excuse the pun. Carnegie Hall did not, in fact, establish an archive until 1986, so a good portion of its heritage was, in a word, missing. With the 100th anniversary looming in 1990, it set about fixing that, and so, as Carnegie Hall archivist Gino Francesconi puts it, “For many years that’s really all we were doing—collecting, collecting, collecting to fill the gap in our history.” Through advertisements in newspapers and magazines, the general public was called upon to help and donated many thousands of items. One such donation, which even led to the establishment of a museum at Carnegie Hall, was one of Benny Goodman’s clarinets, given by his family. Other items ranged from letters by Andrew Carnegie to tickets and photographs—and the search continues today, with sites such as eBay proving helpful new tools.
Digitizing such material is, of course, an ideal way to bring it to the broadest audience, particularly so with sound and video recordings, of which there are nearly 6,000 pieces on 19 different formats (15 of which are becoming “obsolete by the moment, according to Francesconi). So, with the Carnegie Corporation grant, joined by two further grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Susan and Elihu Rose Foundation, that’s what Francesconi and his team set about doing. Already visitors to carnegiehall.org can search for details about any concert—that’s 40,000 events. In time, the plan is to link each entry to related digitized material, beginning with the concert programs. It’s these programs that are, for Francesconi, among the highlights of the archive, fascinating not just for what they say about what was played and by whom, but for what they reveal about the fonts or fashions of an era.
And it’s this that perhaps underscores one of the most significant things about Carnegie Hall’s archive: The organization’s history doesn’t stand in isolation—its story is interwoven with that of the culture, society, and city of which it is such a vital part.
“When Carnegie Hall was established, it was at a time when America was still fairly insecure about its own culture,” says Francesconi. “If you take the top 12 industrialists of the day, they were—combined—making more money than European countries. Culturally things still had to come from Europe—it wasn’t any good if it didn’t come from over there. And yet in less than a generation, it became as important to make a Carnegie Hall debut in America as it was to make any other debut in any other concert hall anywhere else on the planet. And so Carnegie Hall acted, in my opinion, in helping America become more secure culturally.”
While the full digital portal is at least a year away, it’s hoped that as much material as possible will be made available in the meantime. From photographs to playbills to workshops by choral legend Robert Shaw, the end result will be a rich insight into Carnegie Hall’s past, and, indeed, into its present.
New concerts and new material will constantly be added, in time becoming tomorrow’s historical documents. And not just of the events we automatically associate with Carnegie Hall, either; as well as concerts by today’s leading musicians, the Hall also plays host to such events as Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year Awards, all of which will also form part of the archive too. For the curious casual browser to the specialist historian, it promises to be a resource of really remarkable value.
By Pablo Heras-Casado, Principal Conductor, Orchestra of St. Luke’s
“Pablo, you’re Spanish—why don’t you do a Spanish program?” The starting point for this concert was as simple as that. In nearly 20 years of conducting, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve presented a Spanish program—so it’s time, here in New York, to finally bring the best Spanish music and the best Spanish artists to Carnegie Hall with the best orchestra.
The key, to me, is that we are combining two masterpieces with two smaller pieces that are unfamiliar and, in fact, are Carnegie Hall premieres. This is a tradition I’ve created with Orchestra of St. Luke’s that I’m very proud of—offering music from the main repertoire together with music that the audience will most likely be discovering for the first time.
Each half of the program opens with the lesser-known works, pieces for string orchestra by Joaquín Turina and Eduardo Toldrá. Turina’s La oración del torero (The Bullfighter’s Prayer) was originally written for a lute quartet and later reworked for strings. He was struck by the contrast between a public arena with thousands of spectators waiting to see a bullfight, and the moments before the fight where the torero is alone with his soul, his emotions, and his prayers. It’s this tension that Turina strived to depict. Toldrá, a Catalan composer, drew inspiration from the poetry of Joan Maragall when he wrote Vistas al mar (Views of the Sea). The three movements portray three different impressions of the Mediterranean, painting a musical portrait of the smell of the sea, the warmth of the sun, and the special colors and atmosphere of the Catalonian coast.
The two works by Manuel de Falla on this program are both deeply inspired by Spanish culture, but in very different ways. Written for orchestra and piano, Noches en los jardines de España is an impressionistic, multicolored impression of Spain, depicting three different gardens. The first movement in particular, “En el Generalife,” is very special to me because the Generalife are the gardens of the Alhambra in Granada, which is where I am from and where I still live. I can see these gardens from my front window of my home! This music truly feels like a part of me, reflecting the culture I grew up with.
To me, it’s significant that the soloist on this piece is also intimately connected to this culture—the Spanish pianist Javier Perianes, who makes his Carnegie Hall debut on this program. Javier follows in the tradition of Alicia de Larrocha; he is absolutely the next great pianist to come out of Spain.
El amor brujo was inspired by Falla’s fascination with flamenco. In the early 20th century, he and the other artists and intellectuals in his circle were the first to consider flamenco not just as popular art, but as a very sophisticated art form. Falla decided to write a piece featuring flamenco singing, which has a distinct tone that follows the aesthetic of flamenco poetry. Rooted in Spanish traditions, the piece is also very modern as a result of Falla’s time spent in Paris.
The original version of the piece, premiered in 1915, was theatrical—with spoken text, dance, and song—and was written for a chamber ensemble. Later, Falla expanded the orchestration, cut the spoken dialogue, and transformed the piece into a ballet, which is the version we’re presenting. Often, it is performed with a classical mezzo-soprano singer, but I firmly believe that it should always be performed, as Falla intended, with a flamenco singer—and we’re lucky to be working with one of the best, Marina Heredia.
From the composers, to their inspirations, to the artists, everything is from Spain—and especially from Granada. I’m so happy and so proud to bring our spirit, our culture, and our knowledge of this special world to New York, to Carnegie Hall.
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