The most beautiful concert halls in the world?

The most beautiful concert halls in the world?


norman lebrecht

March 03, 2014


kilden-performing-arts-centre-horizontal-galleryCNN counts 15 eye-catchers, including most of the obvious moderns and none of the oldies (Musikverein, the art-deco marvels in Stockholm, Paris and Liverpool). Click here for gallery.

The only UK venue is the Sage at Gateshead. London’s detractions are too blatant to discuss.

Kauffman Center for Performing Arts


  • elliot rothenberg says:

    Wigmore Hall is the greatest chamber music hall in the world. No other venue is even close. So what if it is not deemed “beautiful” by fashionable airheads who don’t know or care anything about music.

    • Wanderer says:

      not even close ehh? Wigmore is a decent hall but nothing spectacular also acoustically. There many equally good or better halls for such repertoire in the world.

      • It’s the wonderful ambience of Wigmore. You have to be there.

        • Anon says:

          Depends on your view. I quite like the Wigmore, but I know others who find the ambience horribly stuffy and toffee-nosed.

          • Rosalind says:

            What I love most about the Wigmore is that the music takes pride of place, the acoustics are unbeatable for chamber music and the surroundings enhance rather than distract from the experience of enjoying concerts.

            Additionally, the audience really knows their music and that is something I know musicians appreciate.

  • Valerio Tura says:

    And what about Renzo Piano’s Parco della musica in Roma…?

  • MacroV says:

    If we’re focusing on exteriors, I don’t see how one can exclude from such a list the Sydney Opera House, still IMHO the greatest building of the 20th century and the one – done without the fast computers all these other architects take for granted – that made all these others possible.

    • Michael says:

      “Emporis, the global provider of building data.” Surely there is no evidence that this building data management company has any standing whether in architectural or cultural circles to make pronouncements on the aesthetics of great buildings! There is clear evidence in their list, however, that they have no such standing at all. The supreme piece of evidence is, as MacroV indicates, the absence from the list of 15 of the Sydney Opera House.

      I share MacroV’s humble opinion. Surely no-one who has seen the building – in person, in a film, a photograph, a sketch or a postcard – would it understand this completely perverse omission! The interior of the concert hall may be disappointing and the interior of the opera house best experienced when the house lights are down and the opera starts (it’s a dull and shabby “opera house”), but the exterior’s sublime beauty is unparalleled.

    • David J Gill says:

      And the Sydney Opera House is only about the exterior.

      A few months ago I found a documentary about the building on YouTube. At one point the ability to calculate the form and structural performance of the shells was really in doubt. I can’t recall the solution…an early computer or methods form the aircraft industry…at the time definitely the most high tech building ever conceived. And, of course, the film rehashed the sad story of Utzon’s departure and how the building suffered without his insight on the development of the interior.

      A really fascinating building, unlike some in this list of 15.

  • R James Tobin says:

    To speak only of the exteriors of concert halls is to miss the point of building them. The most beautiful interior of the many concert halls in which I have heard music is Severence Hall in Cleveland–as restored or remodeled a few years ago. The ceiling design and the curved built-in risers for the players stand out especially.

    • David J Gill says:

      And I’m partial to Severance Hall in Cleveland as well. (1931, Walker & Weeks architects…I’ve been doing some research on the firm.) Lavish and beautiful…despite the fact that they broke ground in November of 1929 in the midst the six weeks or so long stock market implosion.

      It is a small and very dry, or low reverb. hall and it really shaped, or skewed, my sensibilities as a kid. I really find the halls that are most renowned acoustically, like Symp. Hall Boston, to lack clarity and intimacy.

  • R James Tobin says:

    Another beautiful interior concert space is Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, Massachusetts. The lines are clear and simple; and the textures are of natural wood. In spite of a rear wall which opens to the outdoors, its resonance , even for a string quartet, is very satifying.

  • Nick says:

    Agree about Sydney, but why would anyone want to make a fuss about the exterior of concert halls? It’s the acoustics and space of the interior that matter. Everything else is secondary. As the article points out, urban constraints make it difficult for architects to make a ‘statement’ in many cities. So truly great music spaces like the Concertgebouw, Musikverein, Boston’s Symphony Hall, Tokyo’s Suntory Hall and Osaka’s Symphony Hall are basically irrelevant.

    Not sure that SIngaporeans will agree about the exterior of their Esplanade complex. They call it the durians (after the very smelly fruit) or metal bra’!

    • Dave T says:

      “Why would anyone want to make a fuss about the exterior of concert halls?”

      Here are a few reasons:

      1) Concert halls, like all other buildings, are part of a city/town. You probably live in one, or at least visit from time to time. Cities matter, at least to most of its residents/visitors (though perhaps not to you).

      2) The stages of concert halls, even the busiest ones, are only busy, at most, a few hours a day. The “exterior” is “busy”, i.e. encountered and engaged with, for all 24, and by ticket holders and non- alike.

      3) The interiors of buildings ARE architecture.

      4) Excellent “exterior” architecture and fine acoustics are not exclusive of each other. Your point about only the latter mattering is superfluous.

      5) Architecture matters. For someone commenting on a blog about aesthetics, albeit the aesthetics of sound (i.e. music), it is puzzling that you would make such a philistine and ignorant remark about, well, aesthetics.

      • Nick says:

        With respect, I never claimed that excellent exterior and fine acoustics are exclusive. Not at all. I was making two points. First that it seemed odd to ‘judge’ concert halls by beautiful exteriors when the quality of the acoustic within the hall is absolutely crucial. You defeat the purpose of the building if a beautiful exterior masks a poor interior acoustic, as I am sure you will agree. Secondly, as the article points out, many existing concert halls are crammed into quite tight urban areas where there is hardly any room for an architectural statement. I wish every city could have the space to construct an conic Walt Disney Hall or Sydney Opera House, Sadly they don’t.

  • robcat2075 says:

    Philharmonie (Germany) looks like something you’d find at the bottom of a landslide in California.

    • David J Gill says:


      The Phiharmonie in Berlin by architect Hans Scharoun is the one GREAT piece of architecture on this list.

      Notice it is by far the oldest building on a list that is an unappealing collection of star architect projects.

      It is a poorly chosen photo of the building, I must admit.

      Look it up and you will see how coherent it actually is.

      • robcat2075 says:

        An absurd conglomeration of materials. It looks like they built with whatever got delivered to the construction site on any given day, half of it misdelivered from a boat factory order.

    • Wanderer says:

      Which one? Köln? Berlin? Munich? Dresden?

      • Simon S. says:

        Good question. The caption says nothing but “Philharmonie (Germany)” indeed. (I won’t say anything about American media.)

        It’s Berlin. And I completely agree with David J Gill.

        “Simon S.” used to comment as “Simon” on Slipped Disc. He has recently changed his nick name to avoid confusion.

      • David J Gill says:

        The Philhamonie in the photo set is Berlin. Most of the non-German world doesn’t know that “Philharmonie” is not a unique name.

        By my observation these sorts of lists are often poorly researched and images not well identified.

        • David J Gill says:

          Well, I don’t see that. I see three materials other than glass. Here’s where I get to say that I’m an architect, which may have more or less value depending on circumstances.

          But you do know what hall this is…I’m sure you have seen it…It is the home of the Berlin Philharmonic….has seating on all sides of the stage…? Also, you have to remember also that the photo shown is a dumb choice…it shows the back of the building.