The Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam is one of the most famous concert halls in the world and the home base of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
The Royal Concertgebouw is praised for its beautiful acoustics and internationally renowned programming; from classical to contemporary and also jazz and world music.
The Royal Concertgebouw, opened on 11 April 1888, is a building with various concert halls, located on the Van Baerlestraat opposite the Museumplein in Amsterdam.
During the celebration of the 125th anniversary in 2013, the Concertgebouw was awarded the Royal title. Since then, the official name is the Royal Concertgebouw.
The founding meeting of the public limited company that had the Concertgebouw built - and is still the owner - was held in 1882 in theater Odeon on the Singel where a discotheque of the same name is now located.
Construction began in 1883 in a peat meadow area that at the time was just outside the city limits of Amsterdam, in the municipality of Nieuwer-Amstel. In 1896 it came within the borders of Amsterdam. Opposite was the later IJsclub site, the current Museumplein. 2,186 piles of twelve to thirteen meters in length were laid as a foundation on the sandy bottom.
The hall was opened on April 11, 1888, with an initiation concert in which 120 musicians and a choir of 500 people participated. Music was played by Wagner, Händel, Bach and Beethoven.
Until 1952, the building and the Concertgebouw Orchestra formed one organization. In that year, the orchestra was organisationally detached from Het Concertgebouw NV and housed in the Nederlandse Orkest Stichting.
The architect of the building is Adolf Leonard van Gendt, for whom the building plan of the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, which opened in 1884, served as a source of inspiration. The interior of the building has been designed and arranged according to the example of the Neue Gewandhaus, which was destroyed in 1943.
The Concertgebouw has the same smooth lines and round corners as the Neue Gewandhaus and the halls are also surrounded by spacious corridors. And just like in Leipzig, the Small Hall was built right behind the main hall.
The building was built in the style of Viennese classicism. The façade has neo-Renaissance features, and was decorated more than usual in ancient times. It was a way of decorating that was used to give buildings more status. The sculptures were performed by Johannes Franse.
On the roof of the Main Hall is a lyre, the instrument of Apollo, the symbol of music. This is made of copper and is plated with gold leaf. The current winch dates from 1993 and is a copy of the original from 1888 with the difference that the original was made from zinc. The winch has a height of 3.25 meters. The building was declared a national monument on July 4, 1974.
During a major renovation from 1985 to 1988, the J.W. Brouwersplein (now Concertgebouwplein) a new main entrance has been added with a modern glass foyer, designed by Pi de Bruijn. This new part has no monument status.
The Main Hall is 44 meters long, 27.5 meters wide and 17.5 meters high; the hall can accommodate around two thousand people. The hall has a reverberation time of 2.8 seconds without an audience, and 2.2 seconds with an audience. These dimensions make the room extremely suitable for the repertoire from late Romanticism such as the works of Mahler, and to a lesser extent suitable for amplified music and chamber music. The Main Hall is nevertheless also used for solo recitals by famous musicians.
Because of the acoustically superior acoustics, the Main Hall is considered to be one of the three best halls in the world for symphonic music. The other two are the Symphony Hall in Boston (USA) and the Große (Goldene) Musikvereinssaal in Vienna (Austria). One can test the unrivaled acoustics of the Main Hall itself by (of course not during a concert) giving a hard dry blow with the hands. You then hear a clear resonance that dies out in the dark. Clearly different than in other halls.
A large concert organ by organ builder Michaël Maarschalkerweerd has been set up in the Main Hall. The organ case was designed by architect Van Gendt himself and was therefore part of the overall concept of the building.
Every year around 800 concerts take place for an audience of 850,000 people in total. Since the beginning, the Concertgebouw has served as the home base for the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra has also had its regular concert series in the Grote Zaal since 1953. A long tradition since the early 1960s is the concerts of the Zaterdagmatinee from the Grote Zaal.
One of the annual concerts is the New Year's Concert: the Dutch response to the annual New Year's Concert of the Wiener Philharmoniker. The concert is broadcast live on 1 January every year on radio and television. Further traditions are the Christmas matinee that is broadcast live on Christmas Day directly on radio and TV and the passion music on Palm Sunday performed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Every year on Christmas Eve there is a church service of the "Services with Interested People".
At the end of the 60s and early 70s the hall was also used for pop concerts. Artists who performed in the classical music temple include Aretha Franklin, Rod McKuen, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Grateful Dead, Paul McCartney & Wings , Frank Sinatra and Roxy Music.
Hall of fame of composers
Both the large and the small auditorium are adorned with the names of the composers who were most appreciated at the time of building the building (and also afterwards). The names on the balcony edges in the Main Hall are from composers who have performed there or from whom a work has premiered. An example of this is Mahler, who has conducted the first five of his symphonies in the Main Hall.
You can find more information of the Royal Concertgebouw on the website of the Mahler Foundation.