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A new concert hall in Hamburg (washingtonpost.com)
35 points by sehugg 12 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 24 comments

Contrary to what the article states, the acoustic design of the hall have been widely criticized by audio/acoustics experts. In fact, after the premiere concert many (experts and casual visitors alike) have even described the acoustics to be a major disappointment.

This issue of acoustics always seems to come up. You'd think we would have this sorted out by now, since we've been building music halls for hundreds of years. Are we trying to build them too big? Too cheap?

There have been many positive articles... example:


If a consensus does eventually form around the acoustics, it'll be interesting to see what they do about it and how long it will take them to implement a fix.

The Sydney Opera House was likewise ambitious, iconic, stupidly expensive, and with famously bad acoustics. They are only now, decades later, being fixed for a hefty price: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-11/sydney-opera-house-con...

It seems to be too good, making the sounds too crisp and technical, rather than having a comfortable reverb that one can relax into.

Note: If you have the Washington Post app installed, there's an Augmented Reality feature that puts acoustic tiles on your ceiling.

I have no opinion about this concert hall until I experienced a concert there. In the meantime I have experienced 2 concerts (and looking forward to a third in a few months) at a surprising venue with great acoustics, seating, and style, Weill Hall at Sonoma State University http://gmc.sonoma.edu/about/about_Weill_Hall

pretty amazing architecture for a music hall!

Beside being absolutely hideous on the outside, there is no way that hall has good acoustics.

Having seats to the side and behind the stage means you will have bad merging and resolution of parts. Orchestral seating is specifically designed for an audience sitting in front. For example, when attending a performance of Shostakovich'a Cello Concerto, the cello was very difficult to hear, as were several other orchestral parts, causing "holes" in the score. It was an atrocious experience.

Toyota is pretty much a charlatan. Walt Disney Hall has one of the most atrocious acoustics of any hall I've been to. They actually had to invest quite a bit of time and money trying to "fix" (unsuccessfully) the sound after the initial opening. This is why performances there require microphones and reproduction using speakers, in the hall!

I actually had the opportunity to play (piano) on stage and have a friend go seat by seat, evaluating the sound from each position. Needless to say, all the expensive seats had, by far, the worst acoustics. Best sound was from row H, way off-center.

I've heard from orchestral musicians performing there that they couldn't hear themselves, or their fellow performers properly either, making performing challenging. At some point, I recall the hall receiving the distinction of "worst hall" from performing musicians.

On top of this charade of "good acoustics", which I am shocked that Germans fell for Toyota's BS, this hall is terribly ugly and unappealing.

How sad.

Have you been to the remodeled Orchestra Hall of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra? We aren't happy with it, though they've been tweaking it and appear to have produced some improvement, over the intervening years.

I heard recently that Milwaukee is up for something similar: Extending the back of the building.

These projects aren't new construction; nonetheless, they -- in the Chicago case, certainly -- are sacrificing acoustics to the various drives for (extensive, structural) remodeling.

I disagree entirely about it being hideous on the outside.

I was extremely skeptical while living near Hamburg in 2006, when graphical representations were just being publicized. But having been back in the fall and seeing how it fits into the Speicherstadt and projects into the Elbe, I'm happy to have been proven wrong.

> At some point, I recall the hall receiving the distinction of "worst hall" from performing musicians.

When was this? It's only been open a few months.

I agree completely. I lived there too and was skeptical too, but the end result is really wonderful. It's probably one of the best buildings in Hamburg now.

To give some more context: Many of Hamburg's larger buildings are built in a way that is supposed to resemble ships, and so is the elbphilharmony. The bottom of the building is actually an old "Kontor" (depot) building in the harbor (before: http://www.fotograf-hamburg.de/02_bilder_hamburg_speichersta...). From there it has these sail-like structures on top.

Similar shape in the nearby 100 year old Chilehaus: http://www.hamburg.de/contentblob/1131342/dfed187d90a1f73c7e...

as well as the new building of DER SPIEGEL's publishing house central: http://www.dbz.de/imgs/102478178_d9b278661e.jpg

and this office-building: http://www.bildarchiv-hamburg.de/folders/Grosse%20Elbstrasse...

> When was this? It's only been open a few months.

Sorry, I wasn't very clear with my pronouns. I was referring to the Walt Disney Hall that I was describing in the paragraph before.

There are no miracles with acoustics. Try all you want with acoustic baffles, you won't be able to get good acoustics and distribution of orchestral parts with seats to the back right of an orchestra. There's nothing wrong with the traditional "bowl" shape of a good concert hall!

Ahhh, that makes more sense. I see now that you mentioned Walt Disney Hall there.

Thoughts on Bing Concert Hall @ Stanford?


I've played in Bing quite a few times as a member of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra.

My personal perspective: I've found that there's three core interesting benefits/drawbacks of this hall.

1. The ability to hear individual instruments/players is remarkable. 2. Weirdly, although it's easy to pick out specific sounds, they tend to be quieter than you'd expect. Both on stage and in the audience. 3. ... EXCEPT when the full orchestra plays something loud. The hall is very easy to "overpower" (a phenomenon I'd not previously encountered). I don't have a good way to describe it, but when this happens, effect 1. and 2. go away and everything just becomes... too much.

I did not get to experience the acoustics , but i tend to agree with you about the exterior. The building is rather unappealing box in a colorless surrounding.

Looking at the images of this "unappealing box" and the "colorless surrounding" in form of the hamburg harbour and the old warehouse city I have to assume you are trying to be the "devil's advocate" you proclaim to be in your profile. By the way, what is the difference between a devil's advocate and a troll?

> By the way, what is the difference between a devil's advocate and a troll?

Both roles try to formulate arguments that question the group narrative. The difference is the intention: The troll just wants to induce discord, whereas the devil's advocate wants the group to discover and correct the flaws in their arguments, thus making the arguments stronger.

Not GP, but I do think Raekjavik (Iceland)'s concert hall is a beautiful building on the waterfront in a town with older architecture.

hmm. i just found the building to be underwhelming compared to the pictures i had seen.

"Beside being absolutely hideous on the outside, there is no way that hall has good acoustics."

The architects are the Swiss practice Herzog and de Meuron. While your criticisms of the acoustics may be totally valid, it's a feature of the building that the shape of the hall is unrelated to the exterior envelope. So HdeM's exterior style is orthogonal (in principle) to the acoustic question.

It's unfortunate (for architects) that that the ideal concert hall is a wood-panelled shoebox shape. A bit of experimentation (Scharoun, Gehry) is inevitable but if it's a travesty like you say, that's very bad.

Looked into this a bit more.

It seems like the debate comes down to "shoebox" vs. "vineyard":

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vineyard_style https://live.stanford.edu/blog/january-2013/note-vineyard-st...

Ah, good to know the names for these. I'm very skeptical of the acoustics of the Vineyard style, having experienced the "incredible" acoustics of Walt Disney Hall personally on stage, and from the audience.

However, I'll do some more reading on it. Sadly, it seems there's a lot of political pandering and lack of critical hearing (reviewers don't know what to listen for), so it can be hard to find reliable or useful reviews. Nothing can substitute attending a hall and listening in person.

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