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.
External view of the Philharmonie with the memorial and information area for the victims of the Nazi "euthanasia" murders.
From this box office tickets are available for concerts promoted by the Stiftung Berliner Philharmoniker (Berlin Philharmonic Foundation).
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.
B-A-C-H: In creating the colourful mosaics that are inset in the natural stone floors, Erich F. Reuter was inspired by works of Johann Sebastian Bach.
In 2002 the shop was integrated into the foyer by the architectural firm of Kahlfeldt.
The shop, with its wide range of CDs, DVDs, music-related literature and gifts, is open to visitors during concerts.
Hans Scharoun (1893-1972) won the city of Berlin’s competition in 1956 for building the new Philharmonie. He belonged to the architectural avant-garde of his day. His vision: to create spaces for the “free individual”.
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) wurde 1922 als Nachfolger von Arthur Nikisch. Anders als sein Vorgänger setzte er sich zunächst stark für das zeitgenössische Repertoire ein. Das erregte nach der Machtergreifung Hitlers den Unmut der NS-Führung. Gleichwohl wurde er, der nie der Partei angehörte und sich als unpolitischen Künstler bezeichnete, von dieser als Dirigent hochgeschätzt. Nach 1945 erhielt er Berufsverbot und wurde erst 1952 wieder offiziell Chefdirigent bis zu einem Tod 1954.
Nach dem Tod von Wilhelm Furtwängler wurde Herbert von Karajan (1908–1989) Chefdirigent des Orchesters – für fast 35 Jahre. Unter seiner Leitung entwickelte es jene spezifische Klangkultur und virtuose Perfektion, für die es heute weltberühmt ist. Mit ihm zogen die Philharmoniker 1963 in die Philharmonie. Das Orchester wurde zum Medienstar. Und noch zwei Dinge verdankt es dem Dirigenten: die Salzburger Osterfestspiele , die er 1967 ins Leben rief, und die Orchester-Akademie.
Claudio Abbado (1933-2014) war Chefdirigent von 1990 bis 2002. Erstrebte einen transparenteren Orchesterklang an als sein Vorgänger Herbert von Karajan. Mit seinen Konzertprogrammen setzte er ganz eigene ästhetische Akzente. Kennzeichnend für die Ära Abbado waren die großen Konzertzyklen, die ein spezielles Thema in den Mittelpunkt stellten, beispielsweise Prometheus, Faust oder Shakespeare, und die Auseinandersetzung mit dem Werk Gustav Mahlers.
“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.
Der große Saal der Philharmonie ist nicht nur für seine Architektur, sondern auch für seine hervorragende Akustik berühmt. Bei der Planung arbeitete Scharoun mit Lothar Cremer von der Technischen Universität Berlin zusammen. Viele Details wie die Höhe der Stufungen und Brüstungen ergaben sich aus akustischen Gründen. Trotzdem wurden später Nachbesserungen nötig: Eine der einschneidendsten war 1975 die Erhöhung des Podiums, durch die der Klang der Streicher besser zur Geltung kommt.
“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.
Great organ (2015) by Peter AdamikBerliner Philharmoniker
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.
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.
Die Digital Concert Hall der Berliner Philharmoniker bietet klassische Konzerte als Video-Stream für Tablet, Smartphone, SmartTV oder PC an – mit einer Videoqualität in High Definition und exzellentem Ton. Auf diese Weise dokumentiert die Digital Concert Hall nahezu lückenlos die künstlerische Arbeit der Berliner Philharmoniker und ihrer musikalischen Partner - vom Chefdirigenten Sir Simon Rattle bis hin zum namhaften Gastdirigenten und Solisten.
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.
Chamber Music Hall
Eröffnet 1987, Architekt: Edgar Wisniewski
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.
To the website of the Berliner Philharmoniker
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.
Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation