Vandalism: Look what they’ve done to Salle Pleyel

Vandalism: Look what they’ve done to Salle Pleyel


norman lebrecht

September 15, 2016

Once the world’s most stylish concert hall, designed in a piano shape, it has now been gutted of anything elegant as part of its transformation into a rock music venue.

It reopens on September 23.


photo and report: Le Parisien

This is how it used to look.



  • Mathieu says:

    Wow! And it was all very expensively refurbished in the beginning of the 2000’s. Money thrown down the drain. Shame.

    • Brian says:

      A real shame, indeed. I was in there a couple years ago and frankly couldn’t understand why the Orchestre de Paris found wrong with it. I know there were a lot of political reasons for their move but still, compared to what the NY Phil has here in NYC, it was a huge step up.

      • Mathieu says:

        Well, let say that the acoustics were perfectible, even after the refurbishment. I know for a fact that many touring orchestras complained about that.

        The Phillharmonie’s are not perfect, but they are no doubt better.

        And also, the Salle-Pleyel was ill-suited for large-scale symphonic works (like Gurrelieder or Mahler 8).

  • John Borstlap says:

    But that merely fully confirms what I am always saying about the inhumanity and cultural hatred at the heart of modernism, transcending genre. As Le Parisien says rightly:

    “La nouvelle salle Pleyel, dédié à la musique contemporaine.”

    A better critique of what the french establishment thinks is ‘la musique contemporaine’ is not possible. Unintentionally, the new look is a devastating condemnation of a whole genre.

  • Brian Hughes says:

    And I thought that the U.S. (of which I am a citizen) is a poor conservator of its cultural heritage.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The U.S. has a lot of cultural influence in Europe.

      • Peter says:

        true. cultural imperialism. size does matter.
        Hollywood, Coca Cola, Broadway…
        America has perfectionized the way to dilute art into a form cultural diarrhea that attracts millions of flies, thus making more profits than catering to a few educated and enlightened. It’s an industry, stupid. Not to be mistaken with art.

        • John Borstlap says:

          There are two meanings of the word ‘culture’: the anthropological one, i.e. how people live, their cursoms, behavior, social conventions, taste in day spending etc.; and the artistic one. In my comment, I used the word in the anthropological sense – as any anthropologist could see.

  • Alexander Platt says:

    As is always the case in the French Republic, culture becomes too infected by politics. Too bad.

  • herrera says:

    Wait a minute, none of you has seen the new hall, it isn’t open to the public until Sept. 23, and the press sees it only on the 22nd, so what is the basis of your aesthetic judgement on how the new hall looks?

    “Conservation”, “heritage” … huh? We’re talking renovating from the last renovations of 2006, not 1706! Sure, you could claim it’s a waste of money, since it’s been only 10 years, but aesthetically, can you really imagine keeping the red velour seats for a rock concert? It’s not your grandma’s hall anymore. Get over it.

    I for one will reserve judgement until I’ve attended a concert in the new hall, in the full context of lighting and a full light show against the new color scheme.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      The question is not about ”keeping the red velour seats for a rock concert”, the (very sad) problem is making over a historically relevant concert hall to a rock concert arena.

  • Db says:

    Pleyel was not a great hall, not particularly stylish either – except maybe for the foyer. The Philharmonie is incomparably better.

    • alain Lompech says:

      C’est exact. Pleyel était une très mauvaise salle de concerts symphoniques, devenues bonne pour le piano et les petites formations depuis la dernière refonte complète – la 4e depuis son inauguration il y a 80 ans !!! seuls la façade et le foyer sont classés… Il n’empêche que sa toute dernière modification est tout de même plus que curieuse… même si elle est logique…

  • Neil Thompson Shade says:

    My understanding was the plan for years was to convert the Salle Pleyel to a ‘popular’ music venue as part to shift culture to the Parc de la Villette in an effort to boost the local economy.

    I attended a concert at the Philharmonie last year during the Institute of Acoustics conference that was booked at the hall. I thought it to be a good sounding room from the two different sections I listened from, with some of the best string sound I have heard in a hall.

  • John Dalkas says:

    I must disagree about the acoustics at Pleyel, speaking as a concert goer though, not a musician. A Pleyel subscriber for many years, I found excellent seats both in the audience and behind and alongside the stage.

    As for acoustics at the Philharmonie, my two forays out there (50 minutes by public transport from my home in Montparnasse) were unmitigated disasters – I have never sat in worse seats in any hall anywhere in France, the U.K., Italy, Netherlands or the U.S. Listening to the Concertgebouw in the second balcony the sound was so muffled that after intermission I stood against the back wall with only minimal improvement. On my second outing, to hear Ivan Fischer conduct the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the echo in my seat behind the orchestra was so bad I left at intermission.

    Apart from the bad acoustics I experienced at the Philharmonie, I refuse to give my money to an organization that bans classical music from a competing hall instead of having the guts to make the Philharmonie stand on its own merits and live with a rival. (I’m embarrassed now to admit having gone to the Philharmonie hoping I could continue to hear my favorite orchestras there after Pleyel closed.)

    I have since shifted my loyalty to the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées and its fine programming. Like at every other hall I know, the acoustics aren’t perfect throughout the house, but after trial and error I’ve found good, affordable seats.

    For me the TCE is my new home away from the home I enjoyed for years at Pleyel, and now miss dearly. I will always cherish the countless splendid concerts I was privileged to hear in that iconic, historic venue inaugurated by Stravinsky and Ravel in 1927.

    The real vandals are the unashamedly spineless, so-called public servants who abandoned Pleyel to its current fate. Their cowardice showed contempt for a cultural heritage they cynically pay lip service to when it serves their purposes (“la grandeur de la France” they assert in the local parlance) but won’t protect when the chips are down. So much for grandeur.

    Adieu the Pleyel I and so many others loved.

    • Alain Lompech says:

      La qphilharmonie est à 20′ de métro de Bastille quand pleyel était à 35’… L’acoustique de Pleyel était si médiocre que la salle a été refaite une troisième fois en 1981, puis réaménagée acoustiquement 15 ans plus tard par ajout de sculptures sur les murs latéraix pour éviter que toutes les attaques soient dédoublées… Et elle a été refaite une 4e fois en 2006 ! Chaque fois pour résoudre les problèmes acoustiques !
      Elle était – enfin ! – satisafaisante pour orchestre de chambre, lieder, piano… mais toujours pas pour le symphonique… car la salle saturait… Ce que je dis là est incontestable.

  • Alvaro says:

    Rock/pop venues actually use good technology. This place was probably refurbished to host Igudesman &Joo farting over mozart, Cameron Carpenter taking a dump over Bach, and the rest of the labels artists pretending to be doing “outreach” to “get young audiences…

  • David Nice says:

    Horrifying. I heard the Russian National Orchestra here during the big winter freeze (evening wear, some instruments and music were stuck in a lorry on the Peripherique). Had never been to the Salle Pleyel before and thought both foyers and auditorium were stunningly beautiful. A place less appopriate for a rock venue I can’t imagine (not that I’m saying such a venue can’t be good in its own right). And now everyone has to trundle out to the Parc de la Musique… What a waste.