Why Simon Rattle’s hall is the last thing London needs

Why Simon Rattle’s hall is the last thing London needs


norman lebrecht

October 27, 2017

I have written a Heckler’s column in this week’s Spectator arguing the case against the concert hall that Simon Rattle and the LSO are trying to shout into existence.


Concert hall, what concert hall? The only cash on the table is £2.5 million from the Corporation of the City of London. The hall is hot air. There has been no public consultation, no actuarial study of demographic need, no consideration of best possible sites or size. There is not even a consensus within the classical sector that a new hall is a top priority when audiences consistently fail to fill the Barbican and Royal Festival Hall. As for the proposed location, it’s a concrete bunker abandoned by the Museum of London because not enough people want to go there. Or ever will.

Blithely dismissing these facts, the LSO has signed up a shprauntzy New York firm to create what Sir Simon Rattle calls ‘an exceptional new place for the enjoyment and understanding of music that is welcoming and open to all’. Unlike today’s facilities, which are a deterrent and shut….

Read on here.

UPDATE: Munich pulls back on new concert hall


  • phf655 says:

    London remains the world capial of classical music, for the number and variety of live events presented. I am a New Yorker who recently spent two weeks in London. I attended three orchestral concerts at the Barbican and one at RFH. I sat in the same general area for each of the three Barbican events (front side of the circle) and sat in the front side of the balcony at RFH. My acoustical experience ranged between passable (Barbican) and terrible (RFH).
    The decent experience I had at the Barbican was canceled out by what seemed to be an inconvenient location in the midst of a brutalist urban renewal project, requiring a long walk from the tube (in one direction a walk is required through a noxious vehicular tunnel, in the other direction the walk is through a sterile neighborhood of office blocks, through streets that are deserted at night) and inadequate facilities (a walk of three flights of stairs, both up and down, to reach a rest room from the circle). London audiences are clearly aging, but the audiences at the events I attended appeared to be younger, more engaged, and more knowledgable than those in New York.
    Of course I sat in only one location in each hall, but in many, if not most, halls, the front of the top level generally provides the best acoustical environment.
    London deserves a first- rate hall for orchestral music. There is no guarantee that a large expenditure will end in an excellent hall, but in recent years acousticians have had better ,and more predictable, track records (in my experience, the KKM in Lucerne and the Philharmonie in Paris are both excellent).

    • New Yorker says:

      The world capital of classical music.
      This New Yorker disagrees, it is a world capital of classical…..
      I would rather hear the LSO in Carnegie Hall (though unfortunately for them they only play in Geffen Hall

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    You should have sat in the stalls at the Barbican. As to access just cross the road from the Barbican tube station and walk down the tunnel, turn right and Bob’s your Uncle there’s the entrance! No need to go up amonst the brutalist architecture. It’s not a long walk at all just feels like it!

    • phf655 says:

      You’re right, it isn’t far. But walking through a tunnel with traffic whizzing by and car exhaust trapped, isn’t pleasant. It wasn’t too bad on a Sunday evening, but, from previous visits, I remember it was pretty unpleasant on a weekday when traffic is heavy.

  • Olassus says:

    Excellent piece, Norman. You are right in suggesting £500 million “minimum,” right on the historical context, and right to raise the economic and political outlook for Britain.

    There will be no new London concert hall.

  • Saxon Broken says:

    Should the LSO get any new hall built in London. The Barbican has reasonable acoustics, and it is Festival Hall where the acoustics are terrible in much of the hall. Surely a new hall should be used by either the Philharmonia or the LPO. In fact, why can’t each of our three major orchestras have their own hall (each would share with a secondary orchestra, like the BBC SO, RPO).

    I am afraid I don’t agree with Norman’s piece when he says a new hall should be in North London, it should be somewhere fairly central (around Euston or Baker Street would be fine though, but no further north than that).