Berliner Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany

The Berliner Philharmonie is a concert hall in Berlin, Germany, and home to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Philharmonie lies on the south edge of the city’s Tiergarten and just west of the former Berlin Wall. The Philharmonie is on Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße, named for the orchestra’s longest-serving principal conductor. The building forms part of the Kulturforum complex of cultural institutions close to Potsdamer Platz.

The Philharmonie consists of two venues, the Grand Hall (Großer Saal) with 2,440 seats and the Chamber Music Hall (Kammermusiksaal) with 1,180 seats. Though conceived together, the smaller hall was opened in the 1980s, some twenty years after the main building.

Hans Scharoun designed the building, which was constructed over the years 1960–1963. It opened on 15 October 1963 with Herbert von Karajan conducting Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. It was built to replace the old Philharmonie, destroyed by British bombers on 30 January 1944, the eleventh anniversary of Hitler becoming Chancellor. The hall is a singular building, asymmetrical and tentlike, with the main concert hall in the shape of a pentagon. The height of the rows of seats increases irregularly with distance from the stage. The stage is at the centre of the hall, surrounded by seating on all sides. The so-called vineyard-style seating arrangement (with terraces rising around a central orchestral platform) was pioneered by this building, and became a model for other concert halls, including the Sydney Opera House (1973), Denver’s Boettcher Concert Hall (1978), the Gewandhaus in Leipzig (1981), Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles (2003), and the Philharmonie de Paris (2014).

Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck and his quartet recorded three live performances at the hall; Dave Brubeck in Berlin (1964), Live at the Berlin Philharmonie (1970), and We’re All Together Again for the First Time (1973). Miles Davis’s 1969 live performance at the hall has also been released on DVD.

On 20 May 2008 a fire broke out at the hall. A quarter of the roof suffered considerable damage as firefighters cut openings to reach the flames beneath the roof. The hall interior sustained water damage but was otherwise “generally unharmed”. Firefighters limited damage using foam. The cause of the fire was attributed to welding work, and no serious damage was caused either to the structure or interior of the building. Performances resumed, as scheduled, on 1 June 2008 with a concert by the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra.

The old Philharmonic on the Bernburger Straße
The first concerts of the Berliner Philharmoniker, which was founded in the spring of 1882, took place in the Charlottenburg garden restaurant “Flora”. The first permanent home of the orchestra was the summer of 1882 by Gustav Knoblauch was built for Ludovico Sacerdotin 1,876 former roller skating track at the Bern Straße 22a / 23 in Kreuzberg. In 1888 the building of building officer Franz Heinrich Schwechten the Philharmonie, a concert hall bestuhlten without tables, rebuilt. “However, with the rectangular room, the stucco was helped up and gilding something,” was praised for its excellent acoustics. For 1898, the hall began to be small, and the Philharmonic made by Schwechten in underlying yard (Köthener road 32) the skylight hall and the Beethoven Hall building, in order to have alternative areas. In World War II, this complex was at one on January 30, 1944 Allied air raid destroyed.

Interim period
In the post-war years, the Berliner Philharmoniker initially used various alternative quarters: concerts were usually held in the Titania Palace, for recordings was often used the Jesus Christ Church in Dahlem.

The tender for a new building of the Berlin Philharmonic took place in 1956 by the State of Berlin, 14 architects were invited to participate. Original location should initially be a plot on the Bundesallee, which bordered on the Joachimsthalsche Gymnasium. In January 1957, the design by Hans Scharoun was awarded the first prize. At the Philharmonic Competition, Scharoun threatened to repeat a trauma, which was reflected in the new construction of the opera in Kassel Although Scharoun had received the first prize there, his plan was not implemented after initial difficulties with the ground and instead commissioned another architect.

Although the jury awarded the first prize to Scharoun’s Philharmonic Draft after 16 hours of consultation, the decision was made with nine votes to four – and thus lacked the required three-fourths majority. Only after intervention of Herbert von Karajan and an appeal Hansheinz Stuck Schmidt (one of the jury members) in the world Scharoun was eventually commissioned to draw up binding.

A new location
The start of construction should, however, be delayed again: In the public discussion, the targeted location was criticized because it would be too far away from the old Philharmonic. Finally, in 1959, the Berlin House of Representatives decided to relocate the new building to its present location.

As part of the transformation of Berlin into the ” world capital Germania “, Albert Speer had planned a huge soldier’s hall as a memorial for the German soldiers who had fallen in the First World War. The choice of location was thus also a sign against the gigantomania of National Socialism. Immediately next to the property was also the administrative building of the National Socialist Action T4. The building was severely damaged by bombing in 1944 and later demolished. Today, a memorial site has been erected next to the Philharmonic Hall, the extension of which was inaugurated in September 2014.

The new Philharmonie finally emerged as the first building of the postwar planned Cultural Forum. It was built in a construction period of 37 months (laying of the foundation stone: September 15, 1960, topping out ceremony: December 1, 1961, opening: October 15, 1963) to designs by Hans Scharoun. The construction costs amounted to about 17 million marks (purchasing power adjusted today about 37 million euros).

The inauguration was originally planned for the spring of 1964, but was (against the concerns of the construction site) brought forward to allow the beginning of autumn regular-time cycle. The speech at the opening of the new Philharmonic kept the architecture critic Adolf Arndt. The opening concert (Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9) formed the conclusion of the Berliner Festwochen 1963.

Still at the periphery of West Berlin when the Philharmonie opened in 1963, it became part of the new urban centre after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Its unusual tent-like shape and distinctive bright yellow colour makes it one of the city’s landmarks. Its unusual architecture and innovative concert hall design initially ignited controversy, but it now serves as a model for concert halls all over the world.

The building belongs today together with the chamber music hall, the musical instrument museum Berlin and other buildings to the Kulturforum Berlin not far from the Potsdamer place, and is in direct neighborhood to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s new national gallery and to the Potsdamer place with also after plans of Scharoun built house Potsdamer Straße of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.

The original structural situation at Potsdamer Platz is due to the orientation of the building, which is perceptible today as “roundabout” (with the main entrance in the direction of Tiergarten and the back to Potsdamer Platz). At the time of construction, the area was a fallow area directly on the sector border on the also fallow Potsdamer Platz, where the Berlin Wall was built during the construction of the Philharmonic. Only in the reunitedBerlin Potsdamer Platz received its present development and thus its original traffic significance. However, both buildings can also be entered from the parking lot side via the connecting passage between the Philharmonic Hall and the Chamber Music Hall; by a more prominent design of this “back entrance” in 2009 (affixing a new logo, redesigning foyer area and others) whose new role has now been taken into account.

Exterior design
Because of its peculiar, circus-like design with the concert podium in the middle of the Philharmonic was jokingly called shortly after completion “Circus Karajani”, in reference to the then chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Herbert von Karajan (see circus Sarrasani). The name should come from the Berlin vernacular. Another nickname is “concert box” as the golden yellow trim and shape reminiscent of the two halls of chocolate boxes.

Between 1984 and 1987, in addition to the Philharmonie based on the original planning by Hans Scharoun, the chamber music hall was built according to the plans of Edgar Wisniewski. Both buildings are connected.

With the addition of the second building as well as the Philharmonie’s orientation to the Tiergarten, many details of the character of the building are no longer immediately apparent when approaching the complex as a visitor. On aerial photographs, which originate from the time of the opening, Many of these details are easier to identify right from the start. These include Scharoun’s famed nautical design elements in the form of “portholes,” as well as the division of the architecture into a horizontal base that was kept white, housing the foyer and the administrative wing, and the towering golden (then beige) Sounds of the concert hall. On the north and west side, outside, a terrace-like gallery runs around the building, which can be opened during the breaks for the public, and from which the garden is also accessible. Through the body of the foyer, the building receives from the side of the main entrance a similar terraced graduation as the opposite state library.

The “golden” facade cladding
At the opening, the Philharmonie did not yet have the “golden outer skin,” as it disguises the facade today. Although Scharoun had planned a facade cladding, for cost reasons, this was initially not implemented and the concrete facade received instead only a provisional ocher-colored paint. The color ocher was chosen as a reference to the traditional color of Brandenburg castles and mansions.

After only a few years later, moisture damage to the Umschalung the Philharmonic had arisen, the theme of the disguise was taken up again. Only in the years 1979-1981, after the completion of the opposing state library, the Berlin Senate finally had the gold anodized aluminum plates retroactively attached – (almost) the same ones that adorn the high magazine of the Staatsbibliothek (see below).

However, the gold plates were not undoubtedly Scharoun’s originally intended disguise: he had planned square “color plates” with a three-dimensional pattern. The attached to the south side of the chimney white plates meet this originally planned disguise, as they still can recognize late drawings, but the prototypes in the later construction phase were additionally equipped even with small pink and gray areas.

At the same time, a detail was realized in the renovation of the facade of the Philharmonic, which was omitted for cost reasons with the golden paneling of the high magazine of the opposing Staatsbibliothek: The individual gold-anodised aluminum panels were provided with translucent polyester hoods. At the Staatsbibliothek Scharoun promised a subtle lighting effect in connection with the underlying pyramidal structure of the aluplates. Today one sees that this idea works only moderately in practice: Compared with the chamber music hall built in 1984, the outer skin of the Philharmonie looks dull and dirty – only at second glance can one recognize that this is not due to the age of the plates (anyway the difference only about three years): The chamber music hall has no translucent covers on the golden plates.

On the west side of the Philharmonic Hall around the emergency stairwell you can see all three types of external cladding: on the chimney mentioned above, the white plastic panels, which correspond approximately to the original plan; to the left of it the aluminum plates covered with polyester plates and to the right of them (on the staircase itself) the gold anodised plates without cover.

Interior design

Concert Hall
The hall of the Philharmonic offers 2250 seats [ for comparison: the later-built chamber music hall holds 1180 spectators.
The structure of the hall is asymmetrical and tent-like and based in plan on the principle of three interlocking pentagons, which still function as the logo of the Berlin Philharmonic today. However, the asymmetry is implemented very subtly in the floor plan of the room and is specifically achieved by details in the hall: Among other things falls in the left area, a block of the spectator rank away, in which two studios are housed, on the opposite side is the organ (see below) and behind it an empty control room, which can be equipped with external equipment with studio equipment.

The seats offer a good view of the almost centrally placed stage from all sides due to the irregular boarding terraces. By this particular arrangement, the separation between artist and audience is largely abolished; from the corresponding seats, the audience z. As the conductor in the performance look in the face, so that the less favorable in terms of their acoustic balance places, for example, directly behind the percussion (block H) get their own qualities. Many artists like to sit “in the midst” of the audience during a performance in the Philharmonie; these in turn can observe the actors from all sides, depending on the seat. However, there were already conductors and musicians who did not want to be in the center of attention and canceled their performance here (egHans Knappertsbusch) or demonstrated in public commentary passionate rejection (Otto Klemperer or Paul Hindemith).

Scharoun himself described the arrangement of the visitor blocks as “ascending vineyards”. The terracing of the terraces breaks up the usual coherent structure of the audience: the blocks group together about 75-100 seats each, making them both “intimate” on the social dimension, yet acoustically and physically coherent. Slope and arrangement are each designed so that the audience hinder each other as little as possible in the field of view to the stage.

The break with the traditional concert hall division through the central positioning of the orchestra has always been interpreted by critics as a redefinition of the social construct of the concert performance. For example, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Philharmonic, the Berliner Zeitung wrote: “Is it not true that the more open space of the Philharmonie enables the unfolding of all music, while at the Konzerthaus it becomes part of a bourgeois ritual, adhering to the gypsum heads of Bach seems to be monitored until Prokofiev? ”

Both the stage position and the characteristic terraced structure later served as a model for numerous new concert hall buildings (see below). A similar terrace architecture for the visitor ranks, however, already existed in the Mozart Hall of the 1956 opened Stuttgart Liederhalle.

Chamber Music Hall
The Chamber Music Hall was planned as part of the Philharmonie from its inception but did not open until 1987, 15 years after the death of Hans Scharoun. He left behind a sketch from which his partner Edgar Wisniewski developed a conception for the structure. The hexagonal shape of the Chamber Music Hall was already specified in Scharoun’s sketch, and Wisniewski adopted it in his design. Once again Lothar Cremer served as the architect’s acoustical advisor, and the placement and grouping of seating was significantly influenced by his analyses.

Like that of the Main Auditorium, the conception of the Chamber Music Hall is also derived from the musicians’ platform. Many different possibilities are built into the concert platform. For example, it can be lowered to form an orchestra pit for semi-staged performances. The platform’s flexibility was an important concern of the architect, who sought to create a suitable space for performances of contemporary music.

Running through the seating area halfway up is a so-called “action ring”. It enables the musicians to play from additional locations.

The galleries at the periphery of the hall similarly allow additional spatial effects through variable placement of the musicians.

To contrast with the foyer’s light, bright central space, Wisniewski chose dark, dusky colours for the outer areas – corresponding to the dualism in music of major and minor. In the free, bridge-like elements of the Chamber Music Hall’s stairway design, Wisniewski was again re-using elements from the Main Auditorium.

Wisniewski took up many of the Philharmonie design features – for example the stained-glass window – and integrated them into the Chamber Music Hall. This stained-glass wall was inspired by cloud and sky tones. Introductory presentations for chamber concerts of the Stiftung Berliner Philharmoniker (Berlin Philharmonic Foundation) take place here. The foyer is additionally used for exhibitions.

Main Auditorium
“Is it coincidence that wherever music is improvised the people immediately form a circle?” Out of that consideration Hans Scharoun developed this concert hall. Unlike the traditional placement of musicians and audience opposite one another, in Scharoun’s concept the focus is on the platform with the musicians in the centre, around which the listeners are grouped.

The Philharmonie’s main auditorium is famous for its outstanding acoustics as well as for its architecture. In planning it, Scharoun worked closely with the acoustician Lothar Cremer from Berlin’s

Technical University. Many of the architectonic details – for example the steepness and height of the steps and railings – were acoustically determined. In spite of thorough preparatory work, some later adjustments were necessary: one of the most significant was raising the concert platform in 1975 in order to enhance the sound of the strings.

“The hall is conceived as a valley, situated on the bed of which is the orchestra, surrounded by ascending terraced vineyards.” Scharoun translated the image of gently sloping terraces into his design of the blocks of seats for 2218 attendees. The architect’s vision was that of creating a concert hall for a democratic society: no hermetical sealing off of individual tiers and a uniform acoustical quality for all seats.

Unlike traditional concert halls, in which the organ is placed directly above the orchestra platform, Scharoun moved the instrument to the right periphery of the room. The organ has 72 registers, four manuals and pedal, and it can be played from either a tracker (mechanical) or a mobile electric console. It comes from the Berlin organ workshop of Karl Schuke.

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Concealed behind these marble-faced blinds are the pipes of the choir organ. Its twelve stops are distributed over two manuals and pedal which, like those of the great organ, are played from a mobile electric console. The choir organ was also built by the workshop of Karl Schuke.

The choice of facing for the auditorium walls was also based on acoustical determinations by Cremer and Scharoun. The walls of kambala wood perforated with tiny holes are fastened to an absorbent backing in order to eliminate echo effects on one part of the platform.

As a counterpart to the “vineyard landscape” of the audience levels, Scharoun created a ceiling which he described as a “skyscape”. The many small lights are intended to evoke associations of a “starry firmament”. Incidentally: the height of the ceiling was determined according to the acoustical requirement of 10 m3 air space per seat.

The form of the ceiling, reminiscent of a tent with its three convex vaulted arches, ensures a uniform diffusion of sound. Over the orchestra platform hang “clouds” – curved polyester surfaces that serve as reflectors, enabling the musicians to hear one another better.

The Berliner Philharmoniker’s Digital Concert Hall video streams classical music concerts to your tablet, smartphone, smartTV or PC. The sound quality is similar to that of a CD and the picture quality similar to HD television. In this way, the Digital Concert Hall documents almost in its entirety the artistic work of the Berliner Philharmoniker and its musical partners – from principal conductor Sir Simon Rattle to famous guest conductors and soloists.

Box office
From this box office tickets are available for concerts promoted by the Stiftung Berliner Philharmoniker (Berlin Philharmonic Foundation).

Contrary to the traditional layout, the foyer is to the right of the concert hall (the main entrance is sort of “positioned at the corner” of the building). Due to the terrace-like staggering of the auditorium seats in the concert hall, the foyer is dominated by staircases that are a “labyrinthine branches” form. These two circumstances irritate the intuitive orientation and it is sometimes difficult for visitors to find the right access points to their places (of which there are 27 in total). As a guide, four oblique pillars can be used in the back of the foyer around which the bar is built today: these support the overlying block C of the auditorium and mark exactly the central axis between the left and right sides of the hall. Directly in front of the window are the glass block elements by Alexander Camaro (see below), whose A-shape also shows the exact center of the back of the building.

Since 1963 the Berlin Philharmonie has been the home of the Berliner Philharmoniker. But not only that: many other promoters also use the Philharmonie’s main auditorium and the Chamber Music Hall for concerts and other performances. A place of cultural togetherness, of artistic encounters – that precisely is what the architect Hans Scharoun had in mind when he conceived this building. Let’s get started exploring the Philharmonie, its architecture and its history.

The specific design of interior design details such as the banisters, the floor and the windows (see also the section ‘ Art on construction ‘) was used by Scharoun about ten years later in the opposite Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, which is why not only by the concise golden facade cladding, but also reveals a direct relationship to the interior design of the two buildings.

Stairs and windows
This way… to the blocks of seats on the right side, as well as to the Hermann Wolff Hall and the south foyer, spaces in which the Berliner Philharmoniker’s pre-concert events are held. The stained-glass walls by Alexander Camaro – here an arrangement of green and blue shades – form their own counterpoint to the architecture. With this coloured-light effect, Scharoun was seeking to enhance the festive character of the building.

The stairs function as bridges connecting the individual levels. They lend the foyer space a floating lightness, which was also inspired by naval architecture.

Compositions in glass: the stained-glass walls by Alexander Camaro – here an arrangement of grey and pink shades – form their own counterpoint to the architecture. With this coloured-light effect, Scharoun was seeking to enhance the festive character of the building.

The lights were designed by Günter Ssymmank. Each is made up of 72 pentagonal polyamide surfaces attached to a spherical plastic frame.

Small stairways, some of them bridge-like in design, lead to the auditorium doors, which also function as sound buffers.

South foyer with conductors’ busts
In contrast to the expansive openness of the main foyer, incorporating the upper north gallery foyer, Scharoun designed the south foyer as an enclosed space that invites contemplative withdrawal. Some of the introductory presentations for main auditorium concerts of the Stiftung Berliner Philharmoniker take place here.

He was the Berlin Philharmonic’s Orchester’s first great orchestral trainer: Hans von Bülow (1830–1894). At the instigation of the concert agent Hermann Wolff, he became the Philharmonic’s musical director in 1887, following the orchestra’s collaboration with several outstanding conductors in its early years. Bülow set high standards and rehearsed relentlessly. Under his baton, the Berliner Philharmoniker scored great triumphs.

The Hungarian-born Arthur Nikisch (1855–1922) directed the Berliner Philharmonisches Orchester from 1895 until his death in 1922. Having begun his career as an orchestral violinist, he had an unequalled knack for winning over the musicians with his charm, his charisma and his intuitively based interpretative artistry. Under Nikisch’s leadership the Berlin Philharmonic made its first recordings.

Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886–1954) succeeded Arthur Nikisch as conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic (Berliner Philharmonisches Orchester) in 1922. Unlike his predecessor he immediately became a champion of the contemporary repertoire, which, after Hitler seized power, aroused the Nazis’ displeasure. And yet the regime held Furtwängler in high esteem as a conductor, although he never joined the Party and regarded himself as apolitical. In 1945 he was banned from conducting by the Allies, but in a 1947 tribunal he was de-Nazified and thus able once again to conduct the Berliner Philharmoniker. It was not until 1952, however, that he was officially reinstated as the orchestra’s chief conductor, a position he held until his death two years later.

After Wilhelm Furtwängler’s death, Herbert von Karajan (1908–1989) became the orchestra’s principal conductor – for nearly 35 years. Under his direction it developed that specific sound and brilliant virtuosic perfection for which it is now world-famous. With Karajan the Philharmonic moved in 1963 into the Philharmonie built by Scharoun. With him the orchestra became a media star. And it has this conductor to thank for two further institutions: the Salzburg Easter Festival, which Karajan created in 1967, and the Orchestra Academy.

Claudio Abbado (1933-2014) was chief conductor from 1990 to 2002. He strived for a more transparent orchestral sound than his predecessor. The principal conductor placed his very own emphasis with his concert programmes. Typical of the Abbado era were major concert cycles focussing on a specific theme, for instance Prometheus, Faust or Shakespeare, and the engagement with the work of Gustav Mahler.

Passage foyer
The passage foyer connects the Philharmonie with the Chamber Music Hall.

Bells for the performance of Berlioz’s »Symphonie fantastique« and Mussorgsky’s »Boris Godunov«. The idea for bells that can be supported in the middle instead of being hung, and are thus better suited for use in the orchestra, came from the Philharmonic percussionist Fredi Müller. They were made by the bell foundry of Bachert in Heilbronn with financial support from the Society of Friends (Gesellschaft der Freunde) of the Berlin Philharmonie.

Architectural art
The floor in the foyer was designed by Erich Fritz Reuter (1911-1997).
The stained glass windows on the northwest side were designed by Alexander Camaro (1901-1992).
The famous “philharmonic lamp I” in the foyer was designed by Günter Ssymmank (1919-2009).
The garden design was taken over by Hermann Mattern (1902-1971).

All four mentioned artists also participated in the design of the opposite Berlin State Library, which was designed by Scharoun a few years later.

The sculpture on the rooftop (“Phoenix”), which, like the concert hall itself, faces the Reichstag building, was designed by the sculptor Hans Uhlmann.
Bernhard Heiliger (1915-1995) designed the sculpture in the foyer. Heiliger was later to produce two more works for the Staatsbibliothek.
The furniture in the foyer and in the rooms behind the stage was designed by Piter G. Zech.
Between the Philharmonic Hall and the Tiergartenstraße there is a small green area where a sculpture of Orpheus was erected in 1959. She comes from the workshop of Gerhard Marcks.
Directly above the main entrance is a simple lettering made of stainless steel with the symbol of the building above, a multiply nested pentagon. Script and symbol have been renewed in 2010 by the company Fittkau Metallbau and Kunstschmiede.

With the unique positioning of the orchestra in the middle of the audience, the Philharmonic presented completely new challenges for the acoustic design. The occasionally rumored impression that the hall had an originally poor acoustics, which then only gradually had to be raised to an acceptable level, is not correct.

Contributing to this narrative was probably the fact that the construction was omitted for cost reasons on an originally planned elaborate podium, which initially led to isolated problems in the audibility of individual instrument groups. The final improvement took place – after various interim solutions – only over a decade after opening (see below). The strong publicity of the newly opened building also gave the sometimes sharp and exaggerated criticisms a prominent position in the debate. Intendant Wolfgang Stresemann later described the initial acoustics of the Philharmonie as “very, very bad – doggedly bad”.

In contrast, the hall was acoustically extremely well thought out from the beginning – in the spirit of Hans Scharoun, who planned his architecture “from the inside out”. So is the unconventional appearance in plan and roof shape u. a. Result of acoustic considerations.

When planning Scharoun worked already in the earliest greatest possible planning stage, in the design of his competition entry, closely with Lothar Cremer from the Technical University of Berlin together, of it, made as a consultant that the concept of the podium position has been optimally implemented acoustically middle of the audience, Before and during the construction period, models were also used on a scale of 1: 9: electric pulses generated pop pulses to record echograms. (Research goal here was not setting the reverberation time, but the detection and correction of flutter echoes.)

In the case of room acoustics in particular three aspects can be distinguished:

“Sound” of the room: time and character of the reverberation, room resonances, flutter echoes etc.
Balance of the sound image for the concert visitors: Distribution of the sound in the room, audibility of the instruments
Balance of the sound on the podium / stage: audibility for the musicians among each other

“Sound” of the room
For the reverberation time at concert halls for symphonic orchestra, a value of about two seconds in the middle frequencies (when the house is fully occupied) is considered optimal, shorter times are perceived as “mushy” (living room atmosphere), longer lull the sound quickly (Therefore, for example, a symphony orchestra in a large church is no longer considered pleasant). This value is also achieved in the Philharmonic.

However, unlike layman’s assumption, setting the reverberation time in a new building does not pose a major acoustic challenge because it is largely calculated by the volume of space required (10 m³ per person in the case of the Philharmonic) and with the design of the surface materials can be influenced.

In order to keep the acoustic difference between the test situation (without audience) and the concert situation (with occupied seats) as low as possible, for example, the undersides of the seats were provided with sound-absorbing cushions. In the unoccupied room there is a similar reverberation time as with occupied chairs.

With its asymmetrical layout and lack of parallel surfaces, the hall offers ideal conditions to avoid classic problems such as flutter echoes and standing waves (room resonances). The ceiling of the hall is equipped with 136 prism-shaped Helmholtz resonators, which are filled with sound-absorbing material and are also tunable by regulating the gap opening. Due to their shape they act as diffusers at the same time and thus additionally provide for a dispersion of the so-called ” early reflections”, The directly audible and locatable reflections. Through these measures, the Philharmonic achieved its specific character of the reverberation, which is characterized by a small amount of early reflections and a higher proportion of diffuse reverberation – and thus the opposite of the traditional rectangular halls such. B. at the Konzerthaus am Gendarmenmarkt.

Balance of the sound image for the concert visitors
The o. G. The character of the room sound also leads to the excellent locatability of the primary sound sources (ie the individual instruments) and selectivity of the timbres. The uniform distribution of the sound in the room is largely done by the multi-convex ceiling. This is based on an idea of Lothar Cremer back: Scharoun had initially provided a dome-like construction.

A major point of criticism at the beginning, however, was precisely this aspect of the balance of the orchestral sound, in particular the strings were often not loud enough perceptible. The cause of this was quickly identified as the too low position of the podium in the hall. “Scharoun bottomed out was apparently too deep,” commented the then director Wolfgang Stresemann, in reference to a description of the hall by Scharoun.

Ironically, a higher podium was originally planned, but not realized for cost reasons. The improvement of the podium height should extend over more than a decade:

In the summer of 1964, an increase in the entire podium was first made, which brought substantial improvements, but still did not lead to the full satisfaction of Karajans.
In 1973, a semicircular step podium was installed as part of television recordings for aesthetic reasons, which raised the rear parts of the orchestra. Although this was intended only as a provisional, it was used by Karajan in his performances from then on, because he was convinced of the sonic effect, the better audibility of the individual musicians. The use brought a not inconsiderable effort is required because the construction for other concerts will be removed each had, which meant the use of specialists. For safety reasons, the use of the pedestal had to be stopped after one year.
Finally, in the summer of 1975, the podium was installed in its present form, based on a design by Edgar Wisniewski. The semicircular step shape is mechanically adjustable in whole and in parts and can be adapted to different concert situations.

A physical circumstance, however, can not be changed by structural acoustic measures: Of course, the subjective sound on the stages close to the stage side of and behind the orchestra is unbalanced. First of all, particularly close groups of instruments are perceived more accentuated here than from a further distance or in the classical blocks (A-C), because here the relative amplitude differences are simply greater. Another problem arises in these places additionally by the directionality of the instruments, what is eg. makes a strong impact on brass, and is greatest in soloist singing. “The soloist singer concert will therefore always remain a daring experiment in the Philharmonic,” said the responsible acoustician Lothar Cremer, while choirs in his opinion, no such difficulties.

Audibility between the musicians
Contrary to the assumption of many visitors, the convex sound elements hanging above the stage were not installed primarily for the audience, but for the musicians: at the ceiling height of 22 meters above the podium, these reflectors made of fiberglass shorten the sound path of the early reflections, so that the audibility the instrumentalists is guaranteed among themselves. However, the reflectors also provide acoustically pleasing interim reflections on the stage close to the stage and especially in the middle floor. The elements are often also referred to as “clouds” are readily adjustable in height and inclination. Originally Scharoun had planned a single large reflector, but this was then divided into ten individual. At the request of Scharoun, their size was reduced for aesthetic reasons compared to the design of Cremer, for the opening these smaller reflectors hung from the ceiling of the hall. Already in the first game break, however, they were already exchanged for the larger reflectors, as they are still seen today.

Livestream Technique
The building fits into the architectural and musical tradition of “technical avant-gardism “, as it has been embodied by the architecture itself and by the orchestra leaders (especially by Herbert von Karajan). Specifically, the Philharmonic’s internal sound and broadcast technology naturally makes it possible for a few years, without much visible intervention, to distribute whole concerts in high picture and sound quality as video livestream and as archive material on the Internet. The Berlin Philharmonic is so far the only concert hall in which such an official institution exists (since November 2008 under the aegis of Simon Rattle).