August 21, 2003
Musical starchitecture

This scheme is not one that I have so far paid any attention to, which is odd, given that it combines my two most serious obsessions here, namely modern architecture and classical music. (I'm seldom serious about movies. I just like them.)

I'm talking about Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the financial history of which is told in a New York Times article today.

The Music Director is happy.

"What does this do for the city?" said Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Finnish-born music director of the Philharmonic, a tousle-haired and still boyish figure at 45. "I'm quite amused by the fact that the hottest ticket in L.A. is a classical music/architectural event, not some Hollywood thing. I'm going to enjoy that. It won't happen again."

My last contact with Esa-Pekka Salonen was attending a prom last year in which he conducted a fascinating and spirited performance of Shostakovitch's 2nd Symphony, which has a chorus at the back of it singing maniacally about agricultural productivity, and which I loved, and in which he then conducted a dull and spiritless albeit note perfect performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, which also has a chorus at the back, singing about joy.

This maniacal building, I'm guessing, is just the kind of maniacal place which Salonen most likes to perform in.

My question: What are the acoustics of the place like? About that, this particular New York Times article is silent. Frank Gehry is described triumphing over the scheme of one of the billionaires involved to domesticate Gehry, as it were. (Shades of this.) Did an acoustics expert have the right to veto this weird object until he was satisfied? I do hope so.

This at least suggests that some people are serious about getting such things right.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:02 PM
Category: ArchitectureClassical music