Sunday, October 23, 2011

Berliner Philharmonie

The Berliner Philharmonie is a concert hall in Berlin, Germany. Home to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the building is acclaimed for both its acoustics and its architecture.
The Philharmonie lies on the south edge of the city's Tiergarten and just west of the former Berlin Wall, an area that for decades suffered from isolation and drabness but that today offers ideal centrality, greenness, and accessibility. Its cross street and postal address is Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße, named for the orchestra's longest-serving principal conductor. The neighborhood, often dubbed the Kulturforum, can be reached on foot from the Potsdamer Platz station.
Actually a two-venue facility with connecting lobby, the Philharmonie comprises a Großer Saal of 2,440 seats for orchestral concerts and a chamber-music hall, the Kammermusiksaal, of 1,180 seats. Though conceived together, the smaller venue was added only in the 1980s.
Hans Scharoun designed the hall, which was constructed over the years 1960-1963. It is a singular building, asymmetrical and tentlike, with the main concert hall in the shape of a pentagon. The seating offers excellent positions from which to view the stage through the irregularly increasing height of the seat rows. The stage is at the center of the hall, with seats surrounding it on all sides. 

The Philharmonie is highly regarded for the quality of its acoustics. Its typical vineyard style seat arrangement was first introduced through this architecture and became a model for other concert halls including the Denver concert hall, the Gewandhaus in Leipzig and the Sydney Opera House.[1]

I had the opportunity to see a performance of Felix Mendelssohn's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream (Excerpts)', Giovanni Bottesini's 'Fantaisie sur La Somnambule de Bellini' and 'Tarantella' for double bass and orchestra and Antonín Dvořák's 'Symphony No. 8 in G major'.

I will remember most the double bass performance of Janusz Widzyk as it represented to me a level of dexterity and precision that is nearly impossible, yet this unwieldy instrument yielded rich and deep tones under his mastery that resonated well in this impressive venue.

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