Hamburg, Germany, will unveil its much-anticipated new concert hall in January, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will be there to celebrate.
There’s plenty of reason for jubilation. The task of building the Elbphilharmonie (www.elbphilharmonie.de/en) — nicknamed “Elphi” — was something close to herculean. The structure opens nearly a decade after construction started and six years after the initial scheduled completion date.
The first concert is slated for Jan. 11.
While the construction time frame was longer than expected, so was the final bill. The Elbphilharmonie’s cost came in at more than $900 million — well over the original budget.
But a hefty price tag and delays can’t detract from the splendor of the new classical music performance space. Designed by Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, the Elbphilharmonie sits on the banks of the Elbe River like an undulating crystal wave atop its base: a renovated brick warehouse. Its opalescent glass exterior towers 360 feet over the water, reflecting the 19th-century brick warehouses, docks and shipping cranes of the HafenCity district of Germany’s second biggest city.
Inside the complex are 45 private apartments and a hotel. But the piece de resistance is the Elbphilharmonie’s music auditoria: the Grand Hall, with seating for 2,100; the Recital Hall, accommodating 550; and the Kaistudio, seating 170.
An innovative “white skin” adds to the building’s unique architecture, an advance widely touted as an acoustic game-changer. The crenelated membrane took two years to install and covers the interior walls and ceiling of the Grand Hall.
It is here in the Grand Hall that Music Director Riccardo Muti will lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra during sold-out performances Jan. 14 and 15, two of many concerts that make up a three-week-long grand opening musical festival.
The CSO visits Hamburg — one of Chicago’s “sister cities” — as part of a two-week European tour that also includes stops in Paris and Milan, among other cities.
Amy S. Eckert is a freelance writer.