Munich cools on Rattle’s new hall

Munich cools on Rattle’s new hall


norman lebrecht

February 15, 2021

The ever-reliable Abendzeitung reports that the city has redone its sums and is pulling back from building a new concert hall.

The costs have apparently spiralled above one billion Euros, and Covid has left everyone patting their pockets.

Read here.



  • Jonny says:

    Rattle has then to find a new orchestra…

  • Andreas B. says:

    ad infinitum:
    – Rattle/BRSO: Bavarian state government
    – Gergiev/Munich Phil: City of Munich
    – two (!) new halls are currently being planned and built for these orchestras, independently from one another.

    The City of Munich has nothing to do with the new hall for the BRSO.
    This is a project planned and financed by the state of Bavaria.

    The quoted Abendzeitung article is heavy on speculation – however it doesn’t provide any reference to or statements by any of the relevant parties in either state government or BR, the Bavarian public broadcaster, which would indicate any “pulling back” or “cooling” .

    And the City of Munich is doing quite the opposite of “pulling back from building a new concert hall”:
    within the Gasteig complex a new Philharmonie is being built.
    As well as the interim hall in Sending.

    • Yes, ad infinitum. It is good to see the “Interimsphilharmonie” in Sendling coming along nicely for the MPhil. Progress on the nightmare Gasteig project is less clear. As for the BRSO’s Potato-Dumpling-District Hall under discussion here, Mariss must be turning in his grave. But the Abendzeitung story is one of those prodding pieces, I think, to get people focused. The project won’t be canceled. We should also remember that the city, besides being host to the site, participated in its selection along with the state.

    • La plus belle voix says:

      The only Bavarian politician to say anything at all about the Konzerthaus is Robert Brannekämper, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Science and the Arts, who admits only that there is a need to “keep an eye on the timeline”. The rest is pure speculation. The numbers are plucked out of the air.

    • Munich resident says:

      Well, the leader of the parliament’s Arts committee said “It’s better now to invest in people than in steel, concrete and glass”. That sounds a bit like cooling, doesn’t it?

      And the article just argues what might be a common discussion among taxpayers once the new interim hall for Munich Phil has opened and proved to be excellent: Why spending another hundreds of millions of Euros of state budget for a third concert hall in Munich, when there are already two premium halls + Herkulessaal + Prinzregententheater etc.

      The original article from an architecture magazine is here:

      But correct is: City of Munich spends money on interim hall and Gasteig. State of Bavaria allegedly spends money on Konzerthaus.

      • Andreas B. says:

        Mainly, I wanted to clear up the repeated SD confusion about who builds which hall for whom…

        You are right about the Brannekämper quote.
        I hadn’t seen it earlier – the article didn’t load completely.

        On the other hand, Minister Siebler was still fully committed to the hall in November’s süddeutsche article.

        Of course, it’s probably reasonable to question if Munich really needs all of these halls, possibly ending up with three or four of them – while other Bavarian cities (e.g. Passau, Regensburg, Landshut, …) might also like to benefit from Bavaria’s coffers.

      • La plus belle voix says:

        Good point. As you live in the town you probably are closer to things. I’d noticed, for the record, that Brannekämper had of course addressed the issue of residents vs. architecture, but felt his comment was like offering a pacifier to a baby that might cry soon. I read it as a political statement essentially meaning wait a tad, one concomitant then with his thoughts on a time line.

  • I don’t know when they will finish this project but they will have to give it the name of Mariss Jansons!

  • sam says:

    Anyone building a concert hall in this new age of Covid (yes, Covid is here to stay, it will be a part of humanity like the seasonal flu) ought to be put in the nut house.

  • The Munich Philharmonic’s hall, the Philharmonie in the Gasteig, is an acoustic disaster. Bernstein was contracted to play one of the first concerts there. His opinion of the hall was succinct: Burn it! Ozawa also conducted one of the first concerts and said he would never conduct there again.

    25 years later, the City of Munich has contracted the famed acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota to rebuild the Philharmonie. The projected cost will be 100 million euros (and will of course, overrun if recent history is any indication.) They also contracted Toyota to build an interim hall for the Munich Philharmonic in another quarter of the city for 40 million euros.

    The author of the article says they City could have perhaps waited until the new BRSO hall was completed and used that instead of an interim hall costing 40 million. It is rumored that the new BRSO hall will cost one billion euros, not an implausible number.

    There were also immediate options for the Munich Phil as well. After its hall was destroyed during the war, it went 40 years without hall. For four decades it performed in the Herkulessaal which has a good accoustic (and which is the home of the BRSO.) It also occasionally performed in the Kongressaal across the river from the Gasteig. Using these halls would have been functional even if not ideal and have saved the city 40 million. The orchestra used them for 40 years.

    For me, the larger question is why Munich has such immense musical ambitions. The city has also spent huge sums on conductors, such as having Maazel, Mehta, and Celibidache leading its three top orchestras. Colin Davis also conducted the BRSO during this era. (They even acquiesced to paying Celibidache with a brief case full of cash after each concert series so that he could fly back to Paris with it and avoid taxes–which in reality left the City to pay them.) The city has seven full time orchestras including the extremely ambitious Munich State Opera.

    In some respects, I feel these outsized ambitions are not just about music. Beginning in the 1930s, Munich began developing a grandiose vision of itself and Germany. Hitler saw this. He gave these visions a voice and said Munich was his “spiritual home.” (And ironically, the city’s University of Music is housed in Hitler’s personal office building.)

    It’s as if Munich lives in a kind of frustration and anger that its vision of domination was crushed, so it has turned its immense energies and resources to a kind of cultural domination that has almost become a collective neurosis. Of course, this remains unspoken and would be heatedly denied. We’re to think that they just love music and humanism so much that they spend the kind of money they do on music.

    That might be partly true. We can be thankful for the music and that these energies are not directed to violent ends, but after having lived in Munich for 13 years and observed its cultural and political life closely, I feel there are factors at work besides the arts in Munich’s desire for cultural domination. The city’s Faustian aspirations are still among the embers of history that are still glowing.

    • Marfisa says:

      Forgive me, but why must everything go back no further than Hitler? Munich’s “grandiose vision of itself” originated hundreds of years earlier. Duke Albrecht V, in the sixteenth century, hired Europe’s leading musician Orlando di Lasso, and set up a stellar musical establishment which was to make Munich one of the leading centres for composers and performers for the next several centuries. Why should Bavarians not be conscious of this history too, and seek to celebrate and extend it?

      • Things often go back to Hitler because he committed the worst crimes in history and initiated a war that killed 50 million people. Shall we just overlook that?

        Yes, the intense cultural nationalism goes back farther than Hitler, though something unique began to evolve with the rise of cultural nationalism in the 19th century. Wagner’s close relationship to Munich is a good example, and part of a continuum of attitudes of cultural superiority and racism that Hitler exploited.

        Other examples include the high profile Munich composers who were strong supporters of Hitler during the Reich, and that the Munich Philharmonic referred to itself as The Orchestra of the Capital City of the Movement (Orchester der Hauptstadt der Bewegung.) Indeed, Munich was the capital city of the fascist movement, and echoes of that legacy still haunt Bavaria’s political climate.

        And yes, one only need to walk around the center of Munich and notice the architecture, or listen to the reactionary polemic of CSU politicians, or observe the sky-rocketing popularity of the AfD, to understand why people see some unfortunate cultural continuities.

        When my wife was in the Munich Phil for 13 years, the older music still had swastikas stamped on it. No effort had been made to remove them. The realities of 20th century history are ever present in Munich. And of course, there are many who pretend not to see them. In some ways, it’s understandable, but unfortunate when some of the important lessons of history are ignored as well.

        • Matias says:

          “the worst crimes in history”

          One of the worst crimes in history. Why does Communism nearly always get off the hook? The figures are disputed but we’re still talking about tens of millions.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Reading hitleriana backwards into prehitler history is intellectually dishonest and distorts the facts of history.

          King Maximilian nr I wanted to turn Munich into an ‘Isar Athens’, and Max nr II and Ludwig nr I followed that policy, until Ludwig nr II changed that direction into private fantasies, when plans for a Munich Wagner theatre met too much opposition. The Maxes and Ludwig nr I were enlightened, humanist kings, very much against the Prussian type of domination. So, the opposite of hitlerianism.

          The scandal of Ludwig nr II was not his support of Wagner (he saved him from total disaster and thus, his work for humanity), but his secret selling of Bavaria’s independence for a big sum of money from Bismarck which he needed for another fantasy castle. But even that has nothing of hitleriana.

          • “Reading hitleriana backwards into prehitler history is intellectually dishonest and distorts the facts of history.”

            As if Hitler appeared from nowhere.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Hitleriana are everywhere, always, as we can see today. In Germany’s thirties, circumstances were perfect to channel it into a real force.

        • Marfisa says:

          I rather resent the implication that I am overlooking Hitler and Nazism, just because I mention Munich’s centuries-old musical culture. When I visit Munich, must I close my eyes and ears to the heritage of its deeper past, the music, the Englischer Garten, or the amazing baroque and classical architecture, and only take notice of fascist-era buildings and ‘unfortunate cultural continuities’? History is complex.

          • Yes, history is complex, which is why we must consider the whole picture and not just what is pleasant.

            I should also note that there is a difference between visiting Munich and living in it for 13 years like I did. One gets a deeper picture of things. This isn’t, however, to deny the many positive things about the city.

          • Marfisa says:

            You gave one side of the picture; I gave another, as an addition, not as an alternative (I used the little word ‘too’, if you didn’t notice, in my original post). Result: whole picture. I do have a sad feeling, however, that your analysis may turn out to be correct. I hope not, for the sake of my Munich friends.

    • Michael Endres says:

      These “Faustian aspirations” (such as “the extremely ambitious Munich State Opera”) are not only limited to culture:
      Munich’s prime soccer team, the FC Bayern Munich just won the Club World Championship.

      How can Munich be salvaged from itself, its “collective neurosis” be contained?

    • John Borstlap says:

      Since when is cultural ambition ‘domination’?

      And then, when even bad instincts are sublimated in culture, they can be considered turned harmless, like soccer games sublimate the usual male war instincts.

  • Petros LInardos says:

    Wrong headline: the planned new hall is not Rattle’s.

  • Nick2 says:

    This subject is as old as the hills. Whenever was there a new acoustically excellent Concert Hall built within budget? I have no idea who draws up the original budgets but if they do not have a contingency of at least 50% built in, they are bound to be in for a shock.

  • RW2013 says:

    Wrong shape for His head.

  • John Borstlap says:

    This seems to be the end of ‘Snowwhite’s Coffin’.

  • Monsoon says:

    The paradox of these mega concert hall complexes, is that they contain all sorts of spaces not connected to performing music intended to bring in extra revenue, such as restaurants, cafes, large lobbies that can be rented, etc., but they’re rarely profitable, and the substantially increased construction cost they require become an albatross of debt, especially when many orchestras struggle to sell more than 80 percent of the house. Oh, and did I mention the funky concert hall design that more often than not has terrible acoustics?

    Generations of musicians and audiences in Munich would have been happier if instead of the Gasteig, they got a 1,900 seat shoebox concert hall, and the only space not related to making music was a lobby for people to congregate during intermission.

    • Matias says:

      Yes, shoebox deigns are tried and tested. I can only assume that vineyard designs provide a better view and, rightly or wrongly, it is assumed that this is what people expect, and they look better on the home page of the website. Twenty first century priorities, I suppose.

    • John Borstlap says:

      There is the sad story of the newly designed concert hall in Kolchanovo. The town wanted it to be top notch and modern, so the design grew, with every stage of advice, to immense proportions, including a restaurant, cafe/bar, large lounges, a music library, a branch of the local music school, a gift shop, a bath wing for the mine workers coming directly from the work place, a museum with paintings and prints on loan from the Hermitage, and a children playground in the garden. But when Putin festively opened the building it appeared that one had forgotten the hall itself. The building was still a local success, though, abeit without live concerts. The local orchestra was quite pissed-off and had to continue playing in the local church.

  • Rob says:

    Birmingham has a great concert hall, fine acoustics and isn’t the CBSO looking for a conductor? Just sayin……

  • Peter Macklin says:

    Maybe Rattle should try Birmingham? Oh, hang on….

  • Thomas M says:

    They should get the architect who crated Manchester’s wonderful Bridgewater Hall and let him handle it. He’d get them a new hall within budget and in time.

  • Sisko24 says:

    I’m grateful you included a link to the article about that proposed new concert hall because that article more articulately conveys how ugly the building’s exterior is. “Snow White’s Coffin”, indeed. I looked at it and thought it to be based on the Hindenburg’s hangar. If Munich continues with that design, they’d better hope the interior and the acoustics therein are perfect since that would compensate for the hideous outside of the building. Maybe if the Hindenburg were to return it would feel quite at home there…..