Carnegie Hall is a good place to have bad seats. Of course it's nice to be up in a center box, or down in the Parquet where the critics roost. But some of my most cherished nights in the Hall have been spent at acute angles to or great distances from its mighty stage.
My first time was in the early '80s. I'd just moved to New York, my parents were visiting, and I took them to Carnegie Hall as a treat (I'm pretty sure they paid).
Leonard Bernstein was conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony and Brahms's Second Symphony, and the only seats available were restricted view. Morose and embarrassed, I led the way up to the Second Tier, where we were escorted to the very first box next to the stage. Though we couldn't see most of the orchestra, we were so far forward that we were looking back at Maestro Bernstein. We watched his endlessly expressive face, saw the humor and passion and theatrics with which he experienced the music and led the musicians. What a privilege, and of course: though our sightlines may have been obscured: the sound was magnificent.
The second time was when I went to see Alfred Brendel in one of his Beethoven sonata recitals. As a young pianist, I had studied with Mr. Brendel. (He doesn't know that: I'd been given his Vox box set of the complete Beethoven piano works when I was 13, and I listened to them endlessly.) I could only afford a seat at the very back of the Balcony, and when he walked on stage he looked, from that distance, like a bespectacled sea bird striding toward a toy piano. But when he began to play, his personality and artistry reached to the back of the Hall and beyond, and the sound: that shimmering, radiant sound that graces the upper reaches of Carnegie Hall: was sublime.
Nowadays, I have friends with connections, and I tend to get "better" seats. But in answer to the age-old question "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" I'd say it doesn't matter how you do it, just get there. Once inside, it doesn't matter where you sit.
David Hyde Pierce is currently performing in the Broadway production of La Bê_te at the Music Box Theatre.