- Historic Sites
Troy’s Hidden Treasure
A faded industrial town in upstate New York is home to one of the world’s greatest concert halls
April 1999 | Volume 50, Issue 2
The Music Hall continues to surprise visitors, who enter through a small ground-floor foyer that promises nothing; the bank expanded to share the original entrance area many decades back. You climb a simple flight of steps, then discover an amazing space. If more than a century ago the Music Hall was a princess, it’s now a dowager who retains a few of her youthful attributes: Multistory stained-glass windows continue to cast a glow on the lobby, and the ornate iron staircase climbing to the balcony level reminds visitors of Troy’s cast-iron heritage. The narrow vintage seats are also framed in iron and, as the holes here and there reveal, are still covered in their original leather. Refurbishing or replacing the old seating would add comfort but would be costly, and it could cramp the auditorium’s sonic signature.
In his autobiography, Down From Troy: A Doctor Comes of Age , Richard Selzer, a retired surgeon, recalls the music he heard in the city’s streets as a Depression-era child: “Every house was equipped with an upright piano upon which someone was always practicing the scales.” Selzer’s mother was an enthusiastic amateur vocalist who sang on the stage of the Music Hall, and he makes note of the fact that “a whispered aside from the back of the stage can be heard in the uppermost row of the balcony.” Members of the classical music pantheon who performed there included such famous singers as Marian Anderson and Lotte Lehmann, the pianists Josef Hofmann, Myra Hess, and Sergey Rachmaninoff, the violinist Nathan Milstein, and the cellist Gregor Piatigorsky.
Thanks to the concerted efforts of many citizens and businesses—including a bank that hasn’t always based decisions on bottom-line considerations and a record company known for superb sound as well as fine performances—music lovers continue to attend concerts in the superb acoustic environment of the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and take resonant memories home.