Paris Concert Hall Reopens

September 18, 2006

Last week, the Salle Pleyel concert hall reopened with a performance by Orchestre de Paris of Mahler's "Resurrection". The event marked the welcome end of a four-year closure, which had left the orchestra without a home.

Piano manufacturer, Pleyel, still in business today after almost 200 years, built the concert hall in 1927. It was the world's first hall dedicated to the symphony orchestra and hosted such music legends such as Ravel, Debussy and Stravinsky. Less than nine months after the hall’s opening, however, a fire destroyed it.

Though it was rebuilt, it never recovered its original sound quality. A string of quick and cheap renovations did not help matters.

In 1998, real estate developer Hubert Martigny bought the hall and set to restoring it. He planned to strip it down and start anew in order to recapture the art deco spirit of the original and improve the sound quality. In so doing, he sought to create a hall worthy of the orchestra’s reputation. He may have succeeded.

Surrounding the stage with a wooden wall and adding side balconies and extra rows behind the orchestra refined the acoustics. Reducing the depth under the balconies brought the musicians closer to the audience. The balcony seating was set at a steeper gradient for greater visibility. Additionally, workers raised the ceiling and removed almost 500 seats to create more space for sound to reverberate.

To recapture the simplicity of the original art deco design, workers made the walls white, added beech wood trimming and restored the foyer and rotunda to its former state of subdued elegance. The renovation work in all cost €30 million (US$38 million).

In addition to the Orchestre de Paris, Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra, when in Paris, will perform in the hall.

The Salle Pleyel is located on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore.

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