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Carnegie Hall: 120 Years, Thousands Of Great Performances

Carnegie Hall in 1891, the year it opened with a concert featuring Tchaikovsky conducting. (Carnegie Hall Archives)closemore
Carnegie Hall in 1891, the year it opened with a concert featuring Tchaikovsky conducting. (Carnegie Hall Archives)

Tonight, Carnegie Hall pulls out all the stops to celebrate the beginning of its 120th season. There's a starry gala this evening, a snazzy new mobile app and a lavish coffee-table book chronicling the venue's history. (Frankly, one does wonder what's in store for the bigger anniversary five years from now.)

Although the dates don't actually line up as the venue opened in May 1891, Carnegie Hall is making much of the fact that Tchaikovsky came all the way to America to conduct his Marche Solennelle at Carnegie's very first concert, and stuck around to lead several more of his pieces later in that inaugural week. Overbooked composers of any era might empathize with Tchaikovsky's plan, which was simply to re-title the Coronation March he had written for Czar Alexander III and pass it off as a new work. He was caught — but the piece was performed anyway.

At any rate, Tchaikovsky looms very large at the start of Year 120. Russia's fabulous Mariinsky Orchestra from St. Petersburg and conductor Valery Gergiev start a residency tonight to traverse much of Tchaikovsky's orchestral output, with Yo-Yo Ma as guest star this evening to play Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme.

But the Russian focus doesn't stop there; next Tuesday, we'll have a live webcast of Gergiev and the Mariinsky at Carnegie, playing Shostakovich's First Symphony, selections from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet and Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the newest winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition, Daniil Trifonov, as soloist. Stay tuned.

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