Simon Rattle and new Paris hall impress in Mahler

Thu Feb 19, 2015 6:42am EST
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By Michael Roddy

PARIS (Reuters) - The new Philharmonie de Paris concert hall in the French capital this week hosted the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Simon Rattle in a program guaranteed to test its acoustic mettle.

On the basis of Wednesday's concert of the pioneering German composer Helmut Lachenmann's "Tableau" and Mahler's Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection", with soprano Kate Royal and mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena, Rattle's wife, as soloists, plus the Radio Netherlands Choir, the hall passed with flying colors.

Mahler is known for being loud and over the top, and there were nine double basses, two harps, two piccolos, an organ and a huge battery of percussion, plus an oversized orchestra, to ensure the audience -- packing the 2,400-seat hall which opened in January -- got their money's worth. Every note and detail came through gloriously. When two piccolos or two clarinets were performing, it was immediately evident that two separate instruments were tooting away. Every entry by the harps, on the far right of the stage, registered aurally, without having to glance over.

The Philharmonie is intended to give Paris a hall to rival the world's best, like the Disney Hall in Los Angeles or even the Berlin ensemble's own home hall.

Paris has the Theatre des Champs Elysees on ritzy Rue Matignon where Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" had its premiere in 1913, and the renovated Salle Pleyel, but they are both in pricey parts of town with no room for expansion. The Philharmonie comes as part of a theater and conservatory complex where all three events on Wednesday night were sold out.


Rattle and his Berliners delivered the kind of concert that is going to make the Philharmonie a go-to destination in Paris, even though it is in a northern part of the city, near the Peripherique ring road and beside the former la Villette slaughterhouse, which did not tend to attract any but the most intrepid tourists. The complex is of a piece with Budapest's Palace of the Arts and others designed to draw the punters to areas in need of an infusion of visitors and their cash.   Continued...

Conductor Simon Rattle takes part in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium July 27, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Blake