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Carnegie Hall

Concert Hall

Can you imagine New York without Carnegie Hall? Probably not. But in 1960, its owners were ready to demolish Andrew Carnegie's shrine to music to make way for a new skyscraper. Violinist Isaac Stern almost single-handedly saved the world's most famous concert hall from becoming merely a fond memory. From the time it opened in 1891 (with Tchaikovsky conducting the inaugural concert) the 2,804-seat landmark has been synonymous with the greatest musicians of the 20th century, from Arturo Toscanini, Marian Anderson and Vladimir Horowitz to Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and the Beatles.

Carnegie's acoustics are legendary, though some feel the sound was compromised after much-needed renovations were completed in 1986. (A concrete slab under the stage, discovered in 1995, didn't help matters and was later removed.) Once you get past the claustrophobic lobby, you're in for a visual and sonic treat. On the walls are photos and letters from famous composers, singers, instrumentalists and conductors. The seats are plush and the gilded décor ravishing. Even if a performance does not live up to your expectations, a visit to Carnegie always does.

During intermission, instead of squeezing into the lobby or the Cafe Carnegie, stop by the Rose Museum on the First Tier level, where interesting music-related exhibits give you a taste of the hall's illustrious history. On the same level are another cafe, the Rohatyn Room, and a gift shop. But beware: The shop is even more claustrophobic than the lobby. — Ira Rosenblum