The Hamburg Elbphilharmonie
Hamburg’s latest addition to the number of beautiful classical venues, the Elbphilharmonie concert hall overlooking the harbor, is a true masterpiece by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron. Completed several years after plan and hugely over budget, most of Hamburg’s population has already forgiven all the bad planning (and their tax euros gone) seeing this beauty finally come alive.
I was lucky enough to buy tickets more than 6 months ago, because since the official opening tickets are basically only available through the black market. Huge media coverage including the New York Times didn’t really help. Well, at least we now have a classical venue that is most likely sold out for years, many other places would be happy to have such a problem, with ageing population and less people interested in classical music.
I had been to what is called the “Plaza” (see above), basically the publicly accessible space between the only brick harbor warehouse and the new steel and glass construction on top, which houses not only the concert hall, but also a hotel, several restaurants, and even some private apartments. If you’re in Hamburg, check it out, the views and the architecture are spectacular. It is located within the fully new part of town call Hafencity, which on its own is already worth a visit.
This time, last Sunday, was my first time in the actual large hall. I had heard wonders about the supposedly fabulous acoustics and had seen pictures from the inside. But actually being in there is just amazing.
I’ve previously been to other beautiful concert halls, like the Berlin Philharmonie that inspired this new layout of the audience sitting all around the orchestra, the KKL in Lucerne, or the Disney Concert hall in LA, but this beats them all.
The only issue I have withthis venue is that most walls look like they’ve been covered in egg cartons. And actually, they kind of are, an acoustic measure to optimize the sound experience.
William Christie – Les Arts Florissants – Xavier de Maistre
I went to see a rather atypical ensemble for this hall: William Christie’s Baroque Ensemble Les Arts Florissants. This great period ensemble is well known for their baroque performances, I had seen them once before at the Barbican Hall (a much less beautiful venue) in London in a great performance of Purcell’s Didon and Aeneas.
Here they went into a repertoire a little bit later than their typical fare, as they were playing Harp concertos from the time of Marie-Antoinette, as in their recently released album.
So we got exposed to some lesser known composers such as Johann Baptist Krumpholz and Johann David Hermann (the literature for harp concertos isn’t very large).
The concert opened with a lively played Kleine Nachtmusik (Little Night Music), one of the most well known Mozart pieces. It is not my favorite and I had never heard it play live, but it was a refreshing opener.
Krumpholz concerto wasn’t really my cup of tea, so I spent the 2nd half of the part before the break admiring the beautiful venue.
After the break and a glass of Cremant de Loire, Christie started with Haydn. And to answer my own question: no you don’t have to be Italian to conduct Haydn, being an American living in France will do just well. The performance of symphony no. 85, La Reine, was impressive, and made the small ensemble sound at times nearly like a full Beethoven orchestra.
And then things were wrapped up with de Maistre back on stage and Herman’s harp concerto, a much more convincing piece to my ears than Krumpholz.
All in all, a hugely enjoyable evening. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on Elbphilharmonie tickets, go for it!