Composers Datebook

Tchaikovsky at Carnegie Hall

Peter Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) Coronation March Boston Pops; John Williams, cond. Philips 420 804 Orchestral Suite No. 3, Op. 55 New Philharmonia; Antal Dorati, cond. Philips 464 747

Composer's Datebook - May 5, 2021


May 05, 2021


“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Well, the usual reply is, “By practicing!”

But back in 1891, Peter Tchaikovsky would have probably answered, “by ship”–since he had, in fact, sailed from Europe to conduct several of his pieces at the hall’s gala opening concerts. The first concert in Carnegie Hall, or as they called it back then, “The Music Hall,” occurred on today’s date in 1891, and included a performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Coronation March,” conducted by the composer.

The review in the New York Herald offered these comments: “Tchaikovsky’s March... is simple, strong and sober, but not surprisingly original. The leading theme recalls the Hallelujah chorus, and the treatment of the first part is Handelian… Of the deep passion, the complexity and poetry which mark other works of Tchaikovsky, there is no sign in this march.”

Oh well, in the days that followed, Tchaikovsky would conduct other works of “complexity and poetry,” including his First Piano Concerto.

Tchaikovsky kept a travel diary and recorded these impressions of New York: "It is a huge city, not beautiful, but very original. In Chicago, I’m told, they have gone even further–one of the houses there has 21 floors!"

Music Played in Today's Program

Peter Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) Coronation March Boston Pops; John Williams, cond. Philips 420 804

Orchestral Suite No. 3, Op. 55 New Philharmonia; Antal Dorati, cond. Philips 464 747

On This Day


  • 1819 - Polish composer Stanislaw Moniuszko, in Ubiel, province of Minsk, Russia;

  • 1869 - German composer and conductor Hans Pfitzner, in Moscow, of German parents (Julian date: April 23);


  • 1726 - Handel: opera "Alessandro," in London at King's Theater in the Haymarket, with the Italian soprano Faustina Bordini marking her London debut in a work by Handel (Gregorian date: May 16);

  • 1917 - Debussy: Violin Sonata, in Paris, by violinist Gaston Poulet with the composer at the piano (his last public appearance);

  • 1926 - Copland: Two Pieces ("Nocturne" and "Ukelele Serenade"), in Paris by violinist Samuel Dushkin with the composer at the piano;

  • 1930 - Milhaud: opera "Christophe Colomb" (Christopher Columbus),at the Berlin State Opera;

  • 1941 - Britten: "Paul Bunyan" (text by W.H. Auden) at Columbia University in New York City;

  • 1945 - Barber: "I Hear an Army," "Monks and Raisins," "Nocturne,""Sure On This Shining Night," during a CBS radio broadcast, with mezzo Jennie Tourel and the CBS Symphony, composer conducting;

  • 1946 - Douglas Moore: Symphony in A, in Paris;

  • 1977 - George Crumb: oratorio "Star Child," by the New York Philharmonic, Pierre Boulez conducting;

  • 1982 - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Symphony No. 1, at Alice Tully Hall in New York, by the American Composers Orchestra, Gunther Schuller conducting; This work won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983;

  • 1987 - John Williams: "A Hymn to New England," by the Boston Pops conducted by the composer (recorded by the Pops and Keith Lockhardt );

  • 1991 - Joan Tower: "Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman" No. 3(dedicated to Frances Richard of ASCAP), at Carnegie Hall, by members of the Empire Brass and the New York Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta conducting;

  • 2000 - Christopher Rouse: "Rapture" for orchestra, by the Pittsburgh Symphony, Mariss Jansons conducting;

  • 2001 - Christopher Rouse: "Rapturedux" cello ensemble, by the Royal Northern College of Music Cellists in Manchester (U.K.);


  • 1891 - Carnegie Hall opens in New York City with a concert that included Beethoven's "Leonore" Overture No. 3 conducted by Walter Damrosch, and Tchaikovsky's "Marche Solennelle" (Coronation March) conducted by its composer.