Carnegie Hall celebrates 125th anniversary

Updated: 2016-05-06 11:38

By Hezi Jiang in New York(China Daily)

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Carnegie Hall celebrates 125th anniversary

While most of us only get one song on our birthday, Carnegie Hall got dozens as it entered its 126th year.

On Thursday evening - exactly 125 years to the day that the hall first opened its doors in 1891 - many of the world's most renowned musicians returned to the storied stage to celebrate its birthday with a benefit concert.

The lineup - including Lang Lang, Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, Michael Feinstein, Rene Fleming, Marilyn Horne, Jessye Norman, Itzhak Perlman and James Taylor - brought a rich mix of solo, chamber and choral works from the worlds of opera, classical music, musical theater and contemporary popular song.

For the first time, Chinese pianist Lang Lang and Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma played on the same stage. Along with Emanuel Ax, they performed The Swan from Saint-Sans' The Carnival of the Animals.

"It's like a dream come true to play with these the best musicians in the world," said Lang before the performance, who also played two solos and a four-hands arrangement with Ax.

"All of the musicians rehearsed very hard for this performance," he said. "Many are soloists. We had to run the pieces together."

The busy hall, where 46,000 events have taken place since its opening, was once so close to demolition that it has made every birthday since more significant.

Carnegie Hall was slated to be destroyed to make way for a commercial skyscraper in 1960, when Lincoln Center was under construction. Violist Isaac Stern helped start a movement among musicians and fans that saved the hall.

Lang referenced the famous statement by Stern that everywhere in the world, music enhances the hall, with one exception: Carnegie Hall enhances the music.

Lang said that he couldn't agree more. "Carnegie Hall is irreplaceable. I first performed here in 2001 when I was 18. As I played, I found that my music sounded so much better than usual. Carnegie has its soul and the souls of musicians, as if Tchaikovsky and other legends are listening to you play," he said.

At its 125th anniversary, Carnegie Hall also invited music lovers to share their memories of the institution on its website.

A Canadian teenager who set the goal to play at "the most prestigious music hall in the world" after first visiting the hall as a tourist will perform with the Toronto Youth Wind Orchestra there in June. A black woman remembered going to see Nina Simone as a young girl.

Among the most inspiring experiences, there were also "heartbreaking" moments as well, as one anonymous music fan wrote:

"My daughter once lived on W56th Street - directly across the street from Carnegie. Years ago, I came into the City to visit her. We strolled around the neighborhood. A stranger approached and asked us how to get to Carnegie Hall. Before I could get the word 'Practice' out of my mouth, my daughter intervened with directions: 'Turn right at the next corner and then turn left onto 57th Street' I felt like screaming NO, NO, NO! A missed opportunity! An opportunity that likely will never present itself again."