The difference a new concert hall can make

January 1, 2018 by norman lebrecht


The newest concert halls differ radically from the old bourgeois model of pomp and solidity.

Comments (23)

  1. Sharon says:

    One of the first of this type was the “Egg” which is part of the renovated state office building plaza in Albany, NY. It has won a number of architectural awards

    1. brian says:

      And that’s unfortunate for several reasons. In an act of brazen ego by then-governor Nellie Rockefeller, an entire middle-class neighborhood of homes and small businesses was destroyed to make the Plaza upon which the Egg stands — see the PBS special for more on that

      In addition, the interior of the place, the performance spaces, are square and acoustically abysmal; there is no suggestion of the exterior design within them. Thus, classical performers who come to this area tend to prefer the acoustics of the Troy Music Hall: old and traditional though it may be, its acoustics are top-shelf. I saw the violinist Hillary Hahn play there once, and after intermission she spoke to the audience, saying it was her first public performance in the space, though she had been there several times in the middle of the night to make recordings.

      The biggest stars of the classical world are drawn to another place, a converted chapel on the campus of Union College in Schenectady. I’ve seen Ax, Uchida, and some of the top quartets there. And the local orchestra, the Albany Symphony, makes its home at the old Palace Theater. It’s a very good orchestra, but I don’t think they’ve ever played at The Egg.

      I live half a mile from the abortion that is the Empire State Plaza and its Egg, and I work there. I have no prejudice against modern architecture, but The Egg is not a matter of civic pride, nor should it be; it’s a tourist trap and looks interesting superficially, but there is little more to it than appearance.

      1. The View from America says:


        1. DrummerMan says:

          Rockefeller had an “edifice complex.”

          1. brian says:

            Drummerman’s inside joke is a reference to Rocky’s passing. He apparently met his end in a way that many a man would wish for himself:

      2. Justin Cook says:

        The Albany Symphony does not regulrly perform at the Egg. Each year, the Albany Symphony presents 13 concerts at the Palace Theatre, Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, and the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center in Troy, NY.

        You can explore each unique venue with Albany Symphony. Visit for tickets and information.

  2. Olassus says:

    … and a Happy New Year to our 10 million loyal, smart readers!

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      Thank you! 14 million, actually.

      1. Olassus says:

        Astonishing. You realize it will be Slipped Disc and not the books on your epitaph? All best wishes, Norman, for 2018!

  3. J. says:

    5, 4, 3, 2, 1… to the Borstlap comment about concert hall’s architecture…

    1. Olassus says:

      He’s busy watching Muti conduct Suppé, after an insufferable intermission feature complete with Aryan romance.

      1. John Borstlap says:

        ??? Who is Muti (whose mother?), Suppé? Aryan? (The medieval heretic Arianus?) Some people drink too much on new year’s eve.

    2. Been Here Before says:

      I thought John and Sally were busy burning Boulez’ manuscripts in the New Year ceremony!

      1. Olassus says:

        If only Hitchcock were still around. He would create a thriller in the empty Philharmonie with John and Sally and some electical flaw keeping us all in suspense.

      2. John Borstlap says:

        Actually, I was the only one, seemingly, feeling rather unhappy at the bonfire yesterday night. Fortunately it weren’t manuscripts. It’s not always easy working here.


  4. John Borstlap says:

    I really LOVE these halls! So contemporary, and entirely unsuited to the music orchestras play within them. I hope they will finally dispose of all those old white males with their old white music that’s pushed through our throats and I look forward to entire concerts made-up with Xenakis, Haas, Dusapin and my lovely favorite, Boulez. Especially the Philharmonie in Paris, oh my, what a poetry inside and outside… the flying saucer which will take us to the stars of modernism instead of that stuffy stuff.


    1. John Borstlap says:

      Sorry about that….. she’s a bit over-enthusiastic for the new year. I had just wanted to avoid commenting upon the obvious.

  5. Pianofortissimo says:

    I suppose that these buildings are fireproof, and that all emergency exits are inspected and approved.

    1. Pianofortissimo says:

      PS: I just want to say something kind.

    2. John Borstlap says:

      Such precautions are by no means ‘selbstverständlich’. We are reminded of the accident in Hamburg where Mrs Nussbaum, wife of one of the donors, had – on the opening night – opened a wrong door at the Alp Philharmonie and fell 30 meters down into the Elbe.

  6. Greg says:

    Here in Chicago we can only gaze and sigh. I’m sure music lovers in London and New York feel the same.

  7. David A. Boxwell says:

    Reykjavik’s Harpa is a way cool location for episode 3 of series 4 of BLACK MIRROR.

  8. John Borstlap says:

    All these people harping on how great their concert hall is, can hardly be expected to be critical of it since they have to work there for a considerable time.

    The absurdities such halls invite from people running them is, among other examples, demonstrated by Laurent Bayle, president of the Philharmonie de Paris, who recalled at Boulez’ funeral service PB’s lifelong disdain for ‘les invalides de la nostalgie’, meaning the sorry ignorant people who still held achievements of the past in high esteem – forgetting that almost all repertoire performed in his hall stems from ‘nostalgic times’.

    Playing the classical repertoire in such halls creates the impression of a museum culture, like Egyptian objects in glass boxes in museums, so: exactly the opposite of what orchestras try to avoid.

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