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Interesting Info on Building Concert Halls

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  • Interesting Info on Building Concert Halls

    A year to settle in?
    Japanese acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota: where to begin? The man responsible for the acoustics of concert halls such as the Philharmonie...
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

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  • #2
    Toyota's current project with the LSO's new hall is very exciting. We read about it as part of the deal that Simon Rattle made to return to London and the LSO. In our annual sojourn to London, we typically see the LSO at least 2 or 3 times at their long time home at the Barbican. They've improved the acoustics a lot since 80's when we first heard concerts there. However, for all the big orchestras based in London, there are no acoustically world class large venues. Our favorite place to attend classical music concerts in London is Wigmore Hall, which, aside from seats which compete with coach on United, is a wonderful venue, and walking distance from our London time-share. Wigmore holds 545 people, really only suitable for chamber or solo performances. A train ride from London is another mid sized venue, Glyndebourne, which we like very much. It holds 1200 and only does opera. Another acoustically fine hall, a train or bus ride from London is the Sheldonian in Oxford, designed by Christopher Wren in the mid 1600's. It holds about 1000 in mostly uncomfortable unpadded bench seats, but has fine acoustics. The Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Royal Festival Hall and Royal Albert Hall are much larger venues suitable for large orchestras, but none have the great acoustics that are near world class.

    Larry
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    Comment


    • bonzo75
      bonzo75 commented
      Editing a comment
      Similar to wigmore hall is kings place in Kings cross, which I prefer for that kind of music. St Martin's in the field has better acoustics than both but not as good performers. Sheldonian is my clear favorite among all halls but then it is unique. Barbican is the next favorite though as performances there are stellar but one has to sit in a certain section of the stalls for it to be acoustically good, else it can be disappointing and the uniformity of acoustics is not as good as the other halls. I saw Haitink conduct Bruckner 7 at both concertgebouw and at barbican though with different orchestras, quite clearly preferred the latter.

      I have realized I don't prefer the standard shoe box shapes. Birmingham is again the shoe box shape. They do have acoustical uniformity but are more distant and less involving for me as compared to the more intimate ones

      Albert Hall is a joke unless you are listening to an amplified rock concert. Every classical performance there has been disappointing that I mostly walked out half way. Unfortunate as it is walking distance from me. I love the opera house. Next to the festival hall is the Purcell Hall which was closed for refurbishing the last 3 years but it used to be acoustically quite good, a small venue. They are reopening it any time now.

    • MylesBAstor
      MylesBAstor commented
      Editing a comment
      Many years ago I went to Royal Albert Hall to hear Vaughn Willams Sym. #5 and Walton’s Belshazzars Feast. I loved the mushrooms on the ceiling. As the Brit fellow sitting next to me remarked, it was like listening in a barn. The cheap, standup seats in the middle were a nice touch! 😎

    • bonzo75
      bonzo75 commented
      Editing a comment
      For Proms they take off the seats in the middle in the front of the stage and you can stand in the arena in the middle, or lie down on the floor, whatever. The only charm there is that if there is a good classical piece that you like you can move to it like at a rock concert. The best of the sound, though, actually goes straight up instead of to the people in front

  • #3
    Originally posted by astrotoy View Post
    The Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Royal Festival Hall and Royal Albert Hall are much larger venues suitable for large orchestras, but none have the great acoustics that are near world class.

    Larry
    That’s interesting Larry. I always thought these concert halls have excellent acoustics.

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    Comment


    • tima
      tima commented
      Editing a comment
      Yes, same here.

      Isn't The Proms at Royal Albert? Guess I just presumed it was top-notch.

    • bonzo75
      bonzo75 commented
      Editing a comment
      The Albert Hall is walking distance from where I live and has the worst acoustics for a classical concert. Amplified rock there is the best of the London venues. I have seen Clapton there 4 times though walked out half way out of classical concerts. I really like opera house. See my above comment for more detail on the other halls

  • #4
    Fascinating, even as applied to our more modest home environments- that the floors are more important than the walls.
    I wonder if the modern technology and science of acoustics is the quantum improvement over an older hall, like the Concertgebouw, where the materials have been seasoned through time. Also, some materials today are too rare or costly (certain woods) to be used for modern construction. Is the high tech stuff really better? Remember how the Carnegie changed after its renovation? Why?

    Comment


    • MylesBAstor
      MylesBAstor commented
      Editing a comment
      Maybe it is too simple an explanation but I thought part of the demise of Carnegie was related to the curtain was over the stage. But sure there’s more to it. Remember 80 year old Isaac Stern swearing the Hall sounding the same and then finding that the construction workers forgot to remove the concrete construction floor from under the stage?

  • #5
    Originally posted by Marcus View Post
    That’s interesting Larry. I always thought these concert halls have excellent acoustics.
    Thanks. For just about all halls there are always good seats where the sound is fine. However, a really great hall has the vast majority of seats that are fine. The famed Musikverein in Vienna, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and Symphony Hall in Boston all have been universally recognized as the top three big halls (not withstanding some of the more recent halls). Incidentally, they were all built before computer modelling for acoustics. Also they are great for the audience, but not so great for recording in an empty hall. They are also basically big shoebox designs and do not hold as many patrons as some of the megahalls. We've been fortunate to attend concerts at all three of these halls over the years. I went to college in Cambridge just a few miles and one bus ride from Symphony Hall, so heard many concerts there.

    We typically go to Royal Albert Hall once during our annual London trip. The structural problem with RAH is basically it is too big and round. IIRC it holds 5000+ which is 2 to 3 times as many as a typical concert hall. They have made major improvements in the acoustics of the hall and it is no longer a disaster of echoes. When we are in London in the late summer, we always try to go to the Proms, mostly because all the other classical music venues shut down during that time. Many people don't know that the Proms, unlike many summer programs of classical music is very serious stuff. In our first visit to the Proms, the program's main piece was the hour plus long Bruckner 6th Symphony. What the proms does provide is a venue where there are very large number of cheap seats - the cheapest is a big standing area right in front of the orchestra - so classical music fans can go to live music for a cheap price. RAH has been around since the 1800's (not sure whether it was bombed or not and rebuilt in WWII), a tribute to Queen Victoria's husband. It sits between his large memorial and the great museums he pioneered. Many pop concerts are given there and we will be seeing Joan Baez in May on her farewell tour.

    Royal Festival Hall is concrete structure, part of the rebuilding of London after the war and has mediocre acoustics. We go there several times a year, because it is a major venue and both the London Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestras have their home there. We always buy the expensive seats (which are half the price of top seats in SF or NYC, typically 40-50 GBP - $55-$70) and typically are in the 5th to 10th row center section, where the acoustics are just fine. A few years ago we got tickets to hear Daniel Barenboim playing his new Barenboim piano, the concert was sold out and we got cheap tickets in the middle back of the balcony. It was a miserable experience. We could barely hear him most of the time, the sound just didn't carry in the hall.

    The Royal Opera House Covent Garden has had a very major facelift in the late 90's closing for a couple of years, sprucing up its fading interiors and adding a new wing to serve the guests at intermissions (intervals in Brit speak). We typically get good seats, but not the most expensive, which are at the level or even higher than the MET. The Ballet which shares the venue is a better bargain, so we sit in the orchestra (the stalls in Brit speak) fairly close. Ballet tickets in the stalls are around 100-125 GBP, while they are double that for the opera. ($150 for ballet, $300 for opera). For very good acoustics at a semi reasonable price, the amphlitheatre at the back of the hall gives very good sight lines and good sound for around 100GBP ($130). Only problem. The seats are so close together that there are no armrests between the seats. So you get to really know your neighbor by the end of the performance, especially if they are on the large size. The basic design of the hall is a big horseshoe, with several tiers. This creates two problems. Many of the seats, including fair expensive ones, get partly obstructed views so you cannot see what is going on at the rear side of the stage where you are sitting. The second is if you are under one of the balconies, the sound gets muffled. This is a general problem for halls that have large balconies.

    Larry
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    Comment


    • bonzo75
      bonzo75 commented
      Editing a comment
      The seat prices are atrocious compared to the other London venues, but if you stay away from the ceiling overhangs at the back of that balcony etc, I really like the acoustics, including in the top section which is the furthest and the cheapest. Over there, view can be restricted.

  • #6
    When Benaroya Hall was designed, built & tuned in the late 90's they used acoustic modeling standards from
    The Musikverein
    To obtain excellent diffusion over a wide frequency range requires surface irregularities of different sizes and shapes; to obtain excellent diffusion at very low frequencies requires scattering surfaces of very large dimensions. These considerations were essential to the acoustical design of Benaroya Hall. The two principal reasons for providing a high degree of diffusion across the frequency range were (1) to increase the uniformity of the distribution of sound throughout the concert hall, and (2) to smooth out significant variations in the rate of growth and the rate of decay in the hall. The values of reverberation time, at all measured frequencies, for fully occupied Benaroya Hall are within 0.1 sec of the corresponding values in the Grossermusikvereinssaal in Vienna. Noise is inaudible throughout the auditorium, having a measured value of between NC-10 and NC-15 with air conditioning systems in operation.
    The Große Musikvereinssaal in Vienna is regarded as the crown jewel among world’s concert halls. It is a space that transmutes architecture into music and music into architecture.

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