Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Disney Hall

I'm in euphoria. I played a concert at Disney Hall last week, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and it is every bit as wonderful acoustically as they said it would be. The hall was built for music alone, especially symphony concerts, so everything was designed with that in mind. There were no compromises made for theater or other stage performances which have requirements for lighting, props, curtains, backdrops, and the like. The stage, seating arrangements, materials used (lots of wood) were all chosen to enhance the performance of music.

The stage area is the most spacious of any hall I have played in, and sight lines are perfect. It is built in a bowl shape with the conductor at the lowest level and the orchestra rising in a half circle around him. I was perched on the tip of the wing on the left and the basses which are on the far right seemed to be miles away from me. Yet I could hear their sound as if they were right next to me. The solo oboe could be heard perfectly, but it was hard to tell from which direction the sound was coming. I suspect it was bouncing off the walls and coming back.

The acoustics were a little disconcer-ting at first and took some getting used to. When I was warming up, it seemed like the very scraping of the bow hair on the strings was being magnified. Yipes! I thought. Imagine if you were going to play a solo and all anybody could hear was scrape, scrape. But when we all started to play, I couldn't hear it anymore (or I forgot about it). The audience sits all around the stage and you could hear the sounds they were making just as easily: foot movement, program pages turning, and the ubiquitous coughing. As the concert progressed, they learned to sit very quietly.

I have been to Disney Hall many times and attended several concerts there including a memorable Messiah Sing-a-long. (Until last week I could say that I had sung at Disney.) It is one place I like to bring friends and relatives who are in LA for a visit because the architecture is so striking. It was designed by Frank Gehry and was begun with a very generous $50,000,000 gift from the late Lillian Disney, which grew through later Disney family donations plus the interest to over $100,000,000, hence its name. You can take tours through the building daily and if there is no rehearsal in progress, you may even get to see the stage area inside with its wonderful organ pipes. Outside, there are unusual gardens and a beautiful rose fountain made with chips of Delft porcelain—a gift to Lillian from her children and grandchildren.

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