Breaking: Munich will not get new concert hall – and that’s final

Breaking: Munich will not get new concert hall – and that’s final


norman lebrecht

February 02, 2015

Years of persuasion and deliberation ended today in total defeat.

Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) and Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter (SPD) announced together that a new concert hall for Munich was absolutely not going to happen.

Instead, the 30 year-old Philharmonie am Gasteig, a sonically ghastly hall that was hated by musicians from the day it opened, will be gutted and refitted to produce an ‘acoustically perfect’ hall. Yep, Ghastly rules.

Mariss Jansons, who was promised a new hall for the Bavarian Radio orchestra, will be personally gutted. The decision may well accelerate his departure from Munich.




  • MacroV says:

    I’ve heard for years what a dreadful acoustic it has, but it looks nice. It’s not a classic shoebox, but neither is the Philharmonie in Berlin, and somehow they’ve made that work. Hopefully the modern science of acoustics can perform a miracle.

    • JAMA11 says:

      It’s not so modern. Acousticians were working diligently on concert hall design a hundred years ago.

    • Concert listener says:

      Berlin Phil has been built that way against the advice of the leading acousticians. It works “kind of” because the resident orchestra is excellent and well adapted to the hall. But forget about anything with soloists there unless you sit in that area of 30% of the seats where you can actually hear them well. It helps that critics are given tickets in that area mostly.

  • Ignacio Martínez-Ybor says:

    Do they know in Munich how many times Philharmonic Hall (now Avery Fisher Hall) at Lincoln Center has been gutted, regutted, to no avail?

    • Alexander Hall says:

      Or take the grotesque example of London’s Royal Festival Hall on which over a million pounds was spent during their recent refurbishment. None of the wood veneers around the platform match and, far, far worse is the fact that you can now hear the trains rumbling across the adjoining railway bridge even more clearly than before. A total and utter waste of precious money which could have been put to much better use.

  • JAMA11 says:

    There are plenty of ghastly halls that are acoustically just fine. (They can’t all be perfect. Not every city gets its own Carnegie Hall.) Renovating sometimes fails to produce sonic improvement, as it famously did in New York, but it can also work perfectly, as it less famously did in San Francisco.

    Acoustics can, theoretically, be fixed. If we dismiss every ugly hall just because its ugly, a lot of fine orchestras would be homeless.

    • Sixtus says:

      The renovation transforming Philharmonic Hall into Avery Fisher did produce an improvement, even though the latter hall doesn’t come up to the level of Boston Symphony Hall. The tinkerings with Avery Fisher since then haven’t improved things further, unfortunately. As for gutting and renovating the Gasteig, aerial views of the hall show a “shell” unsuited for an acoustically reliable shoebox-shaped interior of adequate size. So Munich will be taking substantial acoustical risks with yet another non-shoebox interior. Sometimes they work, often they don’t.

    • Concert listener says:

      No, you never can “fix” a problematic acoustic. All you can do is to implement small adjustments and refinements, but never change the fundamental problem of an ill received hall.
      Take the Berlin Philharmonie for instance. Problematic for having the majority of the seats sit outside of the preferable directions a singer or solo violin or solo piano directs his or her sound into.
      But they did a few remedies, such as adjusting the sails above the orchestra. Also the stage was raised from ground level (originally the stage on he same level as the floor of the first row of block A, as architect Sharoun designed a “democratic” hall with no elevation for the musicians) to today’s stage level shortly after the opening. Insiders claim though it was done to serve Karajan’s ego who wanted to stand more elevated, not for acoustical reasons.
      The Berlin Phil’s acoustician Cremer stated after the hall had opened, that he had advised against this layout and that he believes the hall will remain difficult to impossible for anything with singers…

      • David J Gill says:

        You are probably quite right. But perhaps on occasion circumstances allow an existing hall to be dramatically improved with alterations. Severance Hall in Cleveland might be one of those. The Hall as designed in 1930 according to the now discredited theories of F.R. Watson was not successful acoustically when it opened. Watson had theorized that the profusion of reflected sound in a hall created poor acoustics and that the ideal would be to maximize direct sound and minimize reflected sound. To this end non reflective materials were favored for the interior of the hall, though the lack of stage shell enclosure may have been the biggest problem.

        George Szell insisted on an acoustical redesign as part of a contract renewal and a new stage shell was created and carpet and other non-reflective materials were removed in 1958. The results were still on the dry side, but excellent overall. The new acoustic of the hall did much to shape the orchestra’s sound over the decades. A further remodel of the stage shell begun in 1998 has been a complete success and Severance hall has an admirable acoustic despite original serious shortcomings.

  • Aimereg46 says:

    Jansons’ contract expires in 2018. He may well leave earlier but to go where?!

  • Anon says:

    Until when is Gergiev’s contract with Munich Phil? The timing seems to indicate a wish by politics that Gergiev only gets a one time stint.

  • Ray Kohn (@Tecchler) says:

    The “acoustically perfect” Symphony Hall in Bimringham could be a blueprint for any Russian Oligarch who wanted to have a concert hall with his name linked to it for all time. Munich could apply: but how about starting from scratch in a city with nothing approaching a concert hall like Sheffield?

    • David J Gill says:

      Concert hall acoustics is about quality and character rather than perfection, or at least as I’ve observed it.

  • Simon S. says:

    “Die Philharmonie soll demnach nicht abgerissen, sondern entkernt werden, um einen neuen Saal einzubauen.” Sorry for not being able to provide the specific vocabulary of architecture and construction engineering in English, but “entkernen” usually means to demolish everything except the external walls. So we can indeed expect not just a refurbished hall, but a completely new one – with the only precondition that it will have to fit in the existing external walls.

    And it is remarkable that the project will be a co-operation of city and state governements and the new hall will be the home of two orchestras: the Radio Symphony (state) and the Philharmonic (city). By contrast, the (now canceled) project of building a completely new hall somewhere else in the city would have been pursued by the state government only – and the new hall would have been for the RSO only, MPhil having to stay in the old (maybe refurbished) Philharmonie.

    • SDReader says:

      “And that’s final,” wrote NL sarcastically.

      Means this ain’t final at all. Two politicians don’t just walk into a room and close off a 10-year process. And the mayor just started in his job.

      *BR is furious
      *Munich Phil has 18,000 subscribers to accommodate
      *Tear down would take years; shape is all wrong
      *Cost would be €000 millions; cheaper to build from scratch
      *For-profit presenters are mad too

      • Anon says:

        All true, which leads suspicious minds to the conspiracy theory, that in the end the usually sneaky politician’s intention is to even cancel the Gasteig 2.0 project. Expect instead more eagerness to spend money where it buys more votes from the masses. Like 30 new kilometers of freeway somewhere, the equivalent in cost to a concert hall. Or a new stadium for some football team.

        What I don’t understand is why the BR was not planned to be part of the financing of the new hall.