1945 - 2017

History of the Konzerthaus Berlin after 1945

Konzerthaus Berlin

Follow the history of the Konzerthaus Berlin from the Second World War to the present day.

After the destruction of the theatre and the French and German Churches during the last days of World War II, the buildings on Gendarmenmarkt were structurally secured. But Gendarmenmarkt basically remained an urban wasteland into the 1970s. Only then were construction plans implemented that had already been drawn up in the early 1950s. Five architects were involved, and overall management was placed in the hands of the Director of the Berlin Construction Department, Prof. Ehrhardt Gisske.

It was decided that the theatre would be rebuilt as a concert hall, as there were already several theatres in East Berlin. However, the name "Schauspielhaus" was retained. An emphasis was also placed on preserving the external facade of Schinkel’s structure. The interior spaces, on the other hand, needed to be adapted to meet new requirements. The process of gutting the building began in 1977. Not only were debris and rubble removed, but also broken and damaged walls and ceilings. The former auditorium was completely disassembled.
Shown in the video: The architect Manfred Prasser on reconstruction.

To transport the rubble outside, the construction workers opened a gate in the outer wall next to the stage, through which cranes and trucks could enter and exit. All the interior building sections were given new, self-supporting steel structures.
Shown in the video: The architect Klaus Just on reconstruction.

In the end, a decision was made against a modern and contemporary interior design. It was decided that the "Schinkel look" would be maintained inside as well. Many elements of the embellishments, murals and ceilings were created to reflect his designs, while the interior spaces were completely redesigned in terms of architecture and layout.
What is one thing that can always be found in a neo-classical building? Naturally, columns imitating ancient models – and these can be found throughout the building. Piece by piece, they were made, cast, painted or clad in marble and adapted to every room. More than 90 companies were involved in the reconstruction, including a large number of craftsmen who used old and largely forgotten techniques for the chandeliers and ornamental reliefs.
The relationship to Schinkel’s neo-classical architecture is omnipresent: all the paintings and statues in the concert hall refer to ancient myths and models.
Naturally, a large Pegasus figure was needed for the roof of the building. With the help of a plaster cast, individual components, consisting of a millimetre-thick copper plate, were fabricated. The entire figure was then hoisted onto the roof with the country’s largest crane.
39 years after its destruction, the Schauspielhaus was reopened on 1 October 1984 as a concert hall. The key was handed over to Artistic Director Dr. Hans Lessing at the ceremonial inaugural concert.
In 1987, Berlin turned 750 – and celebrated twice due to the city’s division. For an entire year, there were festivals, concerts and other events in the East and West. The Schauspielhaus joined in the anniversary year with a series entitled "World Orchestras". The invitation was accepted by the Orchestre de Paris under Daniel Barenboim, the Philharmonic Orchestra London under Giuseppe Sinopoli, the Munich Philharmonic under Sergiu Celibidache and the Hamburg Philharmonic under Yehudi Menuhin. Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein and Kurt Masur also made guest appearances with their orchestras.
On 25.12.1989, shortly after the fall of the Wall, Leonard Bernstein conducted the "Berlin Celebration Concert" with a huge orchestra of musicians from East and West Berlin, Paris, London, New York and Leningrad. Featured on the programme: Beethoven’s moving Ninth Symphony with the famous final chorus, whose text Bernstein had changed for the occasion. "Ode to Joy" thus became "Ode to Freedom".
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Schauspielhaus went through structural changes, culminating with the appointment of musicologist Prof. Frank Schneider as the new Artistic Director in 1992. Under his lead, the Schauspielhaus was renamed the Konzerthaus Berlin in 1994 and the Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester officially became the house orchestra. Its renaming as the Konzerthausorchester in 2006 has underscored the link between orchestra and concert hall ever since.
In 2003, the Werner Otto Hall, named after the patron and mail-order company founder, was opened as the most state-of-the-art venue in the house. Designed by Cologne architect Peter Kulka, the auditorium is acoustically ideal for contemporary concert and musical theatre performances and offers enormous flexibility, thanks to 132 lifting platforms which can be moved independently of each other.
In January 2004, the Konzerthaus Berlin was the first cultural institution in Germany to launch a volunteer association. What was then a pilot project has become an integral part of the concert hall. Today, nearly 70 music enthusiasts work as volunteers, supporting evening visitors, offering tours and assisting during school groups’ rehearsal visits.
Since September 2009, Prof. Sebastian Nordmann has been Artistic Director of the Konzerthaus Berlin and the Konzerthausorchester Berlin. The musicologist and cultural manager attaches great importance to the further opening of the house to new and traditional audiences. Innovative concert formats and festival focal points enable a range of new perspectives on classical music.
On Open House Day on 15 June 2013, the new bronze lettering "Konzerthaus Berlin" above the building’s portico was ceremoniously unveiled by Artistic Director Prof. Sebastian Nordmann, Principal Conductor Iván Fischer and Olivier Feix, Director of Communications/Public Affairs at 50Hertz, premium partner of the Konzerthaus. Since then, they have instantly revealed the building’s purpose to anyone passing through the square.
On 9 November 2014, the Federal State of Berlin’s official ceremony commemorating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was held in the Konzerthaus. Principal conductor Iván Fischer was responsible for the ceremony’s musical framework. Under his direction, musicians from seven Berlin orchestras, some 100 singers from as many choirs and several soloists gathered in the Great Hall – a moving gesture that recalled the famous concert with Leonard Bernstein in December 1989.
In 2017, the Lutheran Reformation marks its 500th anniversary. Reason enough to ring in the anniversary year a year early, on 31 October 2016. At a ceremony in the Konzerthaus Berlin, speakers included Federal President Joachim Gauck (shown in the picture) and the Governing Mayor of Berlin Michael Müller. The Konzerthausorchester Berlin, conducted by Iván Fischer, provided musical accompaniment for the ceremony. In line with the theme of the evening, it performed the first part of the Bach cantata "God the Lord is Sun and Shield".
Konzerthaus Berlin
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