May 4, 2016
This Week in Classical Music History
Thursday May 5 is the 125th anniversary of the very first concert to take place at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The Hall opened in 1891 with a five-day music festival from May 5 to May 9. The New York Symphony Orchestra, Walter Damrosch, Conductor, was featured at six concerts that week. Amazingly, the guest artist was world-famous composer Tchaikovsky himself. He conducted his own works at four of those concerts, including the Festival Coronation March (Marche Solennelle) on opening night, the Suite No. 3 in G Major, Nine Sacred Pieces: Otche nash (Our Father) and Legenda (US premieres), and the Piano Concerto No. 1.
Click here to view an online exhibit about this milestone
Tchaikovsky would have celebrated his birthday during one of those Carnegie Hall concerts.
Two superstar composers who have always figured prominently in the New World Symphony repertoire were May 7th babies, and they lived pretty much concurrently. German composer Johannes Brahms was born in 1833 (d. 1897) and Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in 1840 (d. 1893).
Tchaikovsky debuted first with New World Symphony. Guest violinist Daniel Heifetz performed the Violin Concerto in D Major with NWS at the Big Sky Music Festival in Montana on August 8, 1988, Donald Lewsader conducting.
Their NWS debuts in a regular season concert featured both of the birthday boys in our second season on October 8, 1988 at the Gusman Center. MTT conducted, with performances of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture and Suite No. 1 in D Minor, and Brahms’ Hungarian Dances Nos. 1, 3, and 10.
Tchaikovsky’s crowd-pleasing 1812 Overture may have been the work NWS performed most outdoors — February 1994 and 1995 at Doral Country Club, July 4, 1996 in North Miami Beach, and March 1997 at South Pointe Park.
Brahm’s popular Academic Festival Overture, most recently performed last season, may be one of MTT’s ‘chestnuts’ having conducted it in a baker’s dozen performances going back to December 1989, and including performances in California and on the UNICEF tour of March 1990 in Houston, Chicago, and New York.
One of Brahms’ other crowd favorites, the Violin Concerto in D Major, was performed by NWS with none other than superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman, across the street at the Jackie Gleason Theater on March 1, 1989. It was also performed in 2004 and 2013 with NWS by Christian Tetzlaff.
Just during this almost-past season, New World Symphony performed Brahms’ works some nine times, including at Pulse, Chamber Music, Education, and Orchestral concerts, as well as various workshops. Tchaikovsky’s works were performed eleven times, at String and Full Orchestra, Kids, Holiday, Education, and Side-by-Side concerts, and on the road in Puerto Rico, at the Arsht Center, Miami, and Kravis Center, West Palm Beach.
Photo of Carnegie Hall Grand Opening courtesy Carnegie Hall Archives; photos of Itzhak Perlman rehearsing Brahms Violin Concerto, by Todd Levy, courtesy New World Symphony Archives