Live at Carnegie Hall

Classic Arts Features   Live at Carnegie Hall
One hundred years of recorded sound at Carnegie Hall.

The earliest known recording of live music at Carnegie Hall was made on April 30, 1903, when the Australian contralto Ada Crossley made the very first record for the Red Seal series of the Victor Talking Machine Company. Victor's facilities were located upstairs from the performance halls, in Studio 826, where less than a year later the renowned tenor Enrico Caruso sang ten arias into a small cone for the company. Victor (which later became RCA) transferred its operations to Camden, New Jersey, in 1905, but recordings would continue to be made at Carnegie Hall, moving to larger rooms and eventually to the auditoriums as the technology improved.

For a while after Crossley's historic session in Studio 826, however, recording at Carnegie Hall occasionally proved to be awkward, as in 1926, when conductors Arturo Toscanini and Willem Mengelberg‹along with the New York Philharmonic‹crowded in front of a cone in Carnegie Hall's Chapter Hall (today the Kaplan Space). Advances in microphone and recording technology gradually allowed many Carnegie Hall moments to be immortalized in the Recital Hall and then the Main Hall.

Some "Live at Carnegie Hall" recordings have become legendary: Judy Garland's won an unprecedented five Grammy Awards; Van Cliburn's was the first classical recording to sell a million copies; Benny Goodman's is among the biggest selling jazz recordings of all time; and Harry Belafonte's is sought by audiophiles not only for the performance but also for its superb sonics.

To date more than 750 recordings at Carnegie Hall have been documented, but research continues to reveal others, and, if recorded radio broadcasts are taken into account, the figure goes into the thousands.

Interestingly, in the year 1956, RCA staged a photo shoot for the cover of Elvis Presley's second album and chose a photographer who worked from Carnegie Hall's Studio 826‹where the same record company had made Crossley's landmark recording a half century earlier.

‹Gino Francesconi
Archivist and Museum Director, Carnegie Hall

Visit the Rose Museum to find out more about Carnegie Hall's rich and diverse history.

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