Lloyd Webber: London doesn’t have a great hall, doesn’t need one

Retired cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, now principal of the Birmingham Conservatoire, has launched a broadside in the Guardian against the Simon Rattle-led campaign for a new concert hall costing half a billion pounds.

Julian’s case: We’ve spent £111m on doing up the Royal Festival Hall. It is now good enough.

Just because a concert hall doesn’t bathe its performers in a comforting wash of sound doesn’t mean it is not a good hall for the listener. It is no coincidence that some of the greatest performances I have ever heard have been at the festival hall. It has proved to be the exception to all known acoustical rules. In fact its acoustic distinguishes the men from the boys, and the finest musicians raise their games accordingly.

Read full article here.

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  • I thought he’d already made his position clear.

    “now principal of the Birmingham Conservatoire” – a bit rich, I think.

  • It wasn’t until I went to a concert at the old Philharmonic Concert Hall in Wrocław that I realised just how poor London’s concert halls are. Here’s a photo: http://www.wroclaw.pl/files/cmsdocuments/10024272/filharmonia-004.jpg It’s not much to look at (though it has a kind of 1960s communist charm), but the acoustic is fantastic. The only problem really was that it was too small for large orchestral concerts. The new National Forum of Music, currently in its first season, is now the largest classical music venue in Poland, comprising four concert halls (with capacities of 1,800, 400, 230, and 220), a cafe, two bars, two buffets, and a music shop which has a particularly impressive range of recordings and scores of Polish music. I haven’t yet been in any of the chamber halls, but I can report that the main hall is also excellent. More remarkable is the fact that it only cost just over £82 million. That the Southbank Centre spent £111 million just improving the Royal Festival Hall is appalling, and, to be quite honest, I didn’t even notice that it sounded any better. London does need a great concert hall, if we are to rival not only cities like New York, Berlin, and Vienna, but even a small provincial city like Wrocław (and quite a few other Polish cities which have recently sprung up excellent new concert halls). But the question is, is it worth sinking what is predicted to be in reality a 10-figure sum into the project given the more pressing demands on the UK’s classical music budget, such as saving ENO and ensuring that all children have access to music education?

  • ==In fact [RFH] acoustic distinguishes the men from the boys, and the finest musicians raise their games accordingly.

    Actually I think this is a smart point. A new hall would be a shocking waste of money.

    • …”In fact its acoustic distinguishes the men from the boys…”

      Can someone explain to me what this comment actually means in relation to quality music making as opposed to the equivalent of some masculine sporting prowess?

      But it does go some way to explaining the tone quality of Mr Lloyd Webber was seemingly happy to share with his public.

      Sensible the article may be and very pragmatic, not two qualities at the top of the list when endeavouring to bring to the life the great classical music we have been gifted with down the centuries, in the most revealing and beautiful way possible.

      Anyone who does not see the connection of a great acoustic and potentially great music making must simply been unable to hear what a difference it makes and therefore the RFH would be absolutely adequate to their particular needs.

  • —-> Royal Festival Hall…..the ceiling is monstrously high,

    I’d never thought of that. He’s quite right – it’s insanely tall.
    The sound is just flying away

  • Thank you Julian Lloyd-Webber, thank you. The most sensible article I’ve read on the RFH. Of course it’s not perfect, of course it’s not what you would build if you were starting from scratch, but it’s also the home to many of my greatest musical experiences since I started going there as a schoolboy in the 1970s. Plus – for those of us who also enjoy the visual aspect of concerts – compared with shoebox designs at least you can see the musicians.

  • It’s interesting that Julian Lloyd-Webber, an absolute nobody amongst British cellists should feel the need to pontificate on whether London needs a new hall or not. A great hall would certainly do wonders for his ghastly cello sound.

    • Calling Julian Lloyd Webber “an absolute nobody” just makes you look ignorant and will make people question your motives for doing so.

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