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Simon Rattle to Munich: Build a new hall. The Gasteig sucks.

In a sweeping attack on Germany’s second musical city – at least, that’s how they rank it in Berlin – the Berlin Phil conductor told the Süddeutsche Zeitung this morning (not yet online) that the city needs to build a new concert hall if it wants to play with the big boys.

‘The Gasteig is one of those halls for conductors and orchestras to avoid,’ he proclaimed. ‘There is no space (in Munich) where you can play really well and is big enough for a full orchestra.’

The place to emulate, he added is Wuppertal (below), ‘acoustically one of the best in the world, like the Musikverein in Vienna.’

Let’s just list everyone he has insulted here:

1 Munich, which has been talking about a new hall and is finally getting around to preparing a site.

2 Mariss Jansons, who has been promised a new hall at Bavarian Radio but is too polite to bang on tables.

3 Lorin Maazel, likewise at the Munich Philharmonic.

4 Wuppertal, which does not need to be patronised.

5 Pretty much everyone in Bavaria, who do not take kindly to worldly advice from Berlin. (But that may have been his aim.)

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  1. I don’t feel insulted by Mr Rattle’s words. When he is right he is right.

  2. Well I’m a Berliner Philharmoniker and the acoustics here have a way of giving me better ideas. Honestly! Boston symphony hall also sucks, it’s too small for more than one concertmaster, and only one principal violist? That’s just poor! And poor sucks in classical music, since it should be fit for a king. Wat king is poor? I say have too much dough, a la la phil, in order to build a nice hall. If Bavaria is so fantastic, where’s the philharmonie?!? Just a little honesty please!

  3. @5: Well, that will earn him applause in the rest of Germany. Bavarians may not tak kindly advice from Berlin, but they very much like telling the rest of the country that they’re the best in every respect.

  4. I’ve been performed in one of the smaller concert halls within the Gasteig, but that photo suggests the main concert hall is a different style altogether.
    I must commend the wonderful,freshly prepared food on the ground level, at the Gasteig.

  5. Look what Maazel recently said:
    Ginge es nach ihm, wäre das Gasteig-Problem gelöst: „Es gibt keine schlechte Akustik, sondern nur schlechte Dirigenten, die damit nicht zurechtkommen“, sagte Lorin Maazel auf der Bühne der Philharmonie. „Ich liebe diesen Saal.“

    It is one of the main tasks of a condcutor to deal with the acoustics of each venue they play with. Maazel is in this sense a complete master, Gergiev too, by the way. Also Dudamel is quite gifted. Jansons for instance is not. He has other strong points.

  6. Well, I’d love to have heard Rattle’s comments on the Berlin Phil’s recent concert in Istanbul. They played in an oversized, acoustically dreadful congress center. We simply have NO decent concert hall here, and it’s a big issue in the music community — and there are three symphony orchestras in Istanbul! He, of all people, could have tipped the scales here with a public comment like that. I’ll have to do a little digging to find out what he said behind the scenes.

  7. Seiji Ozawa conducted once in the Gasteig in Munich. He said the hall was so bad he would never return. It is seldom mentioned that Sergiu Celibidache, who was the conductor of the Munich Phil at the time, took a hand in the hall’s design when it was being built. The hall has been widely criticized for a long time so I doubt people are much offended by any new remarks. The Gasteig also has a tiny black box theater which is not very good. On the other hand, it has a small recital hall that belongs to the Strauss Conservatory that is excellent.

  8. Joe Kluger says:

    When Leonard Bernstein was asked to sign the guest artist book after a concert he conducted at the Gasteig, he wrote “burn this hall” before signing his name.

  9. Those in glass houses in London within the M25 should consider carefully where they throw stones. The best-sounding UK halls for large-scale symphony orchestra concerts are in Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Wales and Scotland. Nothing else better than the Munich Gasteig let alone ideal within 100 miles of London unless you are staging something very massive in the Royal Albert Hall.

    • This has more to do with someone desperate to get in a dig at London than Rattle’s comments. As far as I can see, this has nothing whatsoever to do with London.

      Anyway, I hope that Bill (from Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Wales or Scotland) feels better now.

      • Hear, hear, Bill.

        • I actually meant hear, hear Barry. Doh!

          The thread did have nothing to do with those boring provincial gripes about London until somebody chose to take it off in that direction.

      • “Nothing whatsoever to do with London”, apart from the ongoing low-key Rattle-baiting of a certain writer and music blogger who, many years ago, predicted that “sooner or later, Rattle will have to make the move to London”…and has never quite forgiven Rattle for the wound he inflicted to Metropolitan musical amour-propre when he moved from Birmingham to Berlin without taking that (as it turned out) not-so-essential intermediate step.
        Since Rattle’s merely stated a reasonable and widely-held opinion here, that’d certainly be one reason for the tone of this article.

        • Utter piffle, dear chap. You must get over that London envy.

          • “You must get over that London envy.”

            Exactly. I grew up with this nonsense well north of Watford. Can spot it a mile off.

            I also seem to recall Rattle being overshadowed by Tilson Thomas when they were both conducting the Philharmonia on a regular basis. However, the Gramophone, which I’m sure is London based, didn’t appear to have a down on Rattle, quite the opposite in fact.

      • Sorry, Barry, but Bill is right. Where in London is any good? RFH – nope, Barbican – nope, RAH – not really either, Cadogan – no (comfy seats, but stage & hall is too small for symphonic works).
        That’s the major venues done. Fairfield Halls?
        I say Birmingham beats them all. Manchester is excellent too.

        Mind, Caird Hall sounds excellent, but it’s not the best of locations!

        • Anon – you have missed the point completely. I am not defending London’s concert halls, which had the misfortune to be designed many decades ago but not, alas, with the much older tried and tested shoe box proportions.

          I was drawing attention to the gratuitous, anti London comments which don’t have anything to do with Rattle’s comments. As I’ve already said, I grew up in the North with this chippy, childish nonsense and I think it’s about time some people grew up.

    • Bruce Wishart says:

      Not forgetting of course the wonderful Liverpool Philharmonic Hall..
      Beautiful art deco style, intimate yet full acoustic, one of UK’s jewels – and home to the great
      Royal Liverpool Phil with Maestro Petrenko..

      • “great” is pushing it. “Much better than they were” and “excellent in the context of the UK’s regional orchestras” maybe, but not “great”.
        The hall is very good, too, but not great either.

        • Bruce Wishart says:

          Not only excellent in the context of ‘regional’ (awful word) orchestras but nationally and
          internationally.. Do hear this orchestra live, at home or otherwise – you will have a
          great experience..

    • You’re (almost) all ignoring Fairfield Halls which probably has the best acoustic in London.

  10. Maazel and Celibidache are (were) right: deal with the hall if you are a conductor, as if is your job to make the music sound correctly. The Philadelphia Orchestra’s lush sound came from dealing with the acoustically problematic old Academy of Music. Great things were born from Stokowski realizing his hall was bad in 1912! That horrible hall is why we have the giant that is The Philadelphia Orchestra!

  11. Rattle is very correct, and nobody was insulted. It’s just the truth.

    But what Rattle is not telling here, is that Berlin Philharmonie is by itself a bad acoustic.
    Yes that’s correct, mediocre at best. It’s not so obvious, because the orchestra in residence there is fantastic. And it looks nice. But acoustically most of the seats there are not good, except for a few in blocks A and B.
    To hell with these circus arenas, designed around narcissistic conductors.

    • Living in Birmingham, I can easily agree, that Berlin Philharmonie’s acoustic is mediocre. Further away from the stage and flow of the sound is lost. In B-ham you can hear it anywhere. Amen.

    • No, it’s not correct. I’ve sat in many different place there and it’s always sounded great. It easily lives up to its well deserved reputation and is an architectural marvel to boot. I’ve heard orchestras other than Berlin Phil too. Definitely superior to Birmingham and my favourite given that you also have a good view from every seat as well (unlike Concertgebouw and Musikverein – long live the circus arena).

      • Yeah, the view at Anne-Sophie-Mutter’s hair is fabulous from sitting behind the orchestra. And you finally hear those timpani well in the beginning of Beethoven’s Violin concerto. Pure genius in acoustics. :-P

        • Well, I think 98% of concertgoers would disagree. But each to his own…

          • But 98% of those 98% also don’t know what is the difference between a good and a mediocre acoustic. But for sure many have an opinion about it. :)
            Anyway, that in these circus architectures many can’t hear the soloists well is simply a fact that can’t be denied. There are many other acoustic problems on top of that as well.

  12. Was the choice of Rattle in Berlin political anyway? we’ll never know. I think this blog is unfair. It feels more like a direct personal attack on Simon Rattle. You must be bored.

    • There is no way that the the appointment of Rattle in Berlin was political, as the right to choose a chief conductor lies solely with the musicians, not with management. Having said that… I wonder who they’ll pick next?

  13. Alledgedly Bernstein’s first comment about the Gasteig was “Burn it”, so the advice from Berlin is really nothing new. Rattle still got well deserved standing ovations in Munich that week, playing with the BR symphoniy in the much smaller and uniquely ugly Herkulessaal.

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