NEW YORK — Frank Sinatra sang, Vladimir Horowitz played and Leonard Bernstein conducted, as Carnegie Hall reopened Monday night after a seven-month, $30-million effort to update the famed concert hall's mechanics while restoring its 19th-Century acoustics. The top ticket price was $2,500.
World reknowned violinist Isaac Stern, his emotion-choked voice rising above the cacophony of harpists and cellists tuning up, unveiled the refurbished hall in all its "natural, full glory." Stern, the Carnegie president, is credited with saving the grand dame of American concert halls from the wrecking ball in 1960.
The event included two surprises: A brief, unscheduled performance by pianist Horowitz, who played Chopin's C-sharp-minor Waltz and A-flat Polonaise, and Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic in "Opening Prayer," which he composed specially for the reopening.
The Philharmonic also played works by Haydn, Bach and Wagner under Zubin Mehta. Soloists included Stern, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne and soprano Benita Valente.
Sinatra, in his first concert since intestinal surgery last month, sang several songs, including "New York, New York."
"I've worked here before," he told the audience, "but this night has a special meaning for me."
And for many others. The whole idea, said Stern, was "that this place shall continue to sound, and from here shall grow truth and beauty for the next 10 generations."
The architectural elements that made Carnegie famous--the ceiling dome, the gracefully curved interior surfaces, the 4-feet-thick walls--have never changed.
But after its opening in 1891 the hall suffered several acoustic indignities. A subway line was built underneath, the mahogany floor was covered with vinyl and a hole was cut in the stage's acoustic shell.
This year the floor was restored, acoustic doors installed to reduce street and subway noise and the acoustic shell was replaced.
The hall reopened with a new lobby and marquee; new air conditioning and elevators; an expanded and improved backstage area; and a restored auditorium with 2,812 new chairs.
Earlier in the evening, Stern summed up the Carnegie renovation: "We re-created the graciousness, grandeur and elegance of 1891--with 21st-Century plumbing inside."