When the new Concert Hall was opened on 28 April 2017, a new era began in Dresden’s music life, in particular for the Dresden Philharmonic. For the first time in its 150-year history, the orchestra is domiciled in a concert hall that truly does justice to the qualities of this top-class orchestra, a hall with outstanding architecture and first-class acoustics.
Besides their own orchestra concerts, the Dresden Philharmonic also hosts concerts with jazz and world music stars in the new hall. And on up to 100 evenings a year, it offers other genres, such as musical, film music, ballet, pop and much more. From "Phantom of the Opera" to the Ten Tenors, from Max Raabe to Hansi Hinterseer, there’s something for everyone.
The hall was designed and realised by the renowned architectural office Gerkan, Marg and Partner. With their outstanding expertise, the architects, collaborating closely with the Dutch acoustic engineering consultants Peutz, developed a room that makes optimal use of the conditions of the listed historical building: it combines elements of vineyard and shoebox architecture, and, with 21,500 sq. m. room volume, is of similar size to its “sisters”, Berlin’s Philharmonie and Leipzig’s Gewandhaus. The stage, 210 m2 in size, has lifting podiums; a specially designed plafond ensures that the musicians can hear each other perfectly. There are seats for a total of 1,754 visitors in the stalls and the two circles.
For the Dresden Philharmonic and their guests, the backstage area is also of vital importance – after all, in the broadest sense it serves to perfectly prepare for every concert. With a choir rehearsal hall, artists’ dressing rooms, tuning rooms, a musicians’ foyer with a café and numerous offices, it provides a contemporary backdrop for the operations of the Concert Hall.
For the Dresden Philharmonic, this hall is the resonance space of their special “Dresden sound”.
It was love at first sound in this splendid hall. [It is] one of the best halls in the world. It feels like I’m playing in a Stradivari with my Stradivari!
about the new Concert Hall at the Kulturpalast
The Dresden Philharmonic can look back on 150 years of history as the orchestra of Saxony’s capital Dresden. When the so-called “Gewerbehaussaal” opened on 29 November 1870, the citizens of the city were given the opportunity to organize major orchestra concerts. Philharmonic concerts were held regularly starting in 1885; the orchestra adopted its present name in 1923. In its first decades, composers such as Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Dvořák and Strauss conducted the Dresden Philharmonic with their own works. The first desks were presided over by outstanding concertmasters such as Stefan Frenkel, Simon Goldberg and the cellists Stefan Auber and Enrico Mainardi. From 1934, Carl Schuricht and Paul van Kempen led the orchestra; van Kempen in particular guided the Dresden Philharmonic to top achievements. All of Bruckner’s symphonies were first performed in their original versions, which earned the orchestra the reputation of a “Bruckner orchestra” and brought renowned guest conductors such as Hermann Abendroth, Eduard van Beinum, Fritz Busch, Eugen Jochum, Joseph Keilbert, Erich Kleiber, Hans Knappertsbusch and Franz Konwitschny to the rostrum.
After 1945 and into the 1990s, Heinz Bongartz, Horst Förster, Kurt Masur (from 1994 also honorary conductor), Günther Herbig, Herbert Kegel, Jörg-Peter Weigle and Michel Plasson were the principal conductors. In recent years, conductors such as Marek Janowski, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos and Michael Sanderling have shaped the orchestra. With the beginning of the 2019-20 season, Marek Janowski rejoins the Dresden Philharmonic as principal conductor and artistic director.
Its home is the highly modern concert hall inaugurated in April 2017 in the Kulturpalast building in the heart of the historic old town. In romantic repertoire, the orchestra has preserved its very own “Dresden sound”. Furthermore, it is characterised by a flexibility in sound and style for the music of the Baroque and First Viennese School, as well as for modern works.
World premieres continue to play an important part in the orchestra’s programmes. Guest performances in major concert halls around the world demonstrate the high esteem enjoyed by the Dresden Philharmonic in the world of classical music. High-calibre education and family formats round off the offer for young people; the youngest concertgoers are brought into contact with classical music by attending rehearsals and school concerts. The orchestra supports young musical talent in the Kurt Masur Academy.
The Philharmonic’s discography, which has been growing since 1937, also testifies to their broad spectrum. A new climax was reached with the CD cycle conducted by Michael Sanderling dedicated to the complete symphonies of Dmitri Shostakovich and Ludwig van Beethoven (Sony Classical).
Unique among organs in Dresden, the Concert Hall organ in the Kulturpalast’s new hall is the result of civic engagement. It was not originally envisaged, and it is due to the commitment of the sponsoring society (Förderverein) of the Dresden Philharmonic with its former managing director Lutz Kittelmann that it can now be seen as the culmination of the Concert Hall. A million euros were raised through donations; Dresden, capital of the state of Saxony, contributed EUR 300,000.
The renowned company Eule Orgelbau from Bautzen was commissioned to build it. They “composed” the organ, so to speak, into the new room: it has 4,109 pipes in 67 registers, and meets – technically and in terms of sound – the particular architectural acoustic requirements of the new Concert Hall. Five large divisions are played with four manuals and one pedal keyboard. Each division has its own sound character: the great organ acts as a powerfully leading sound core, the pedal as a firm yet supple bass foundation. For Manual II the focus is on German Romanticism; Manual III is oriented towards English and French music, while Manual IV is equipped with characteristic timbres for English and American late Romanticism.