NEW YORK, USA (AFP) – The New York Philharmonic is preparing to open its brand new performance space next month – and it’s not just instruments that need to play the perfect pitch.
The hall itself is being tested, with the famous symphony testing their pieces as the acoustics make changes to the wall and ceiling panels to ensure warm, rich tones.
It’s “almost like you’re going on a sound safari,” said Jaap van Zweden, the Philharmonic’s musical director since 2018. “It’s really reinventing the sound of the orchestra.”
The Dutch-born conductor explained to AFP that for years the dated design of the former hall contributed little to the acoustics created by the instruments.
But now, “they get a lot of sound and beauty, that’s a little news for them … this honeymoon between them and the hall needs some time.”
The $ 550 million overhaul of the open space for the first time in 1962 accelerated after concerts at David Geffen Hall closed in March 2020.
As halls across the country grew dark, the Philharmonic, in partnership with Lincoln Center, the arts complex on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, finally moved on to rebuild their home, whose speeches dated back to 1995.
More than 600 construction workers took hours at any one time, six days a week with multiple shifts and overtime, to renovate the building into a state-of-the-art space with improved acoustics and more accessible design.
The remodel reduces capacity from 2,738 to 2,200, but visibility has improved for nearly every seat in the house.
And some seats are now positioned behind the orchestra, whose stage is 24 feet (seven meters) forward of the previous point against the wall, giving concerts a surround sound feel.
The walls were carefully rebuilt and clad in beech wood, explained Acoustics Chief Paul Scarbrough, to support the room’s low frequencies.
Another new feature is an adjustable acoustic canopy: “We were able to fine-tune how much energy is returned to the musicians on the platform so that they can hear themselves and play together, compared to how much is directed at the audience,” he said. Scarbrough.
“So that they get a rich and enveloping experience of the orchestra.”
– New “energy” –
In collaboration with Van Zweden, a team from Acoustics selected a variety of works “that would bring out different colors, textures, timbres, layers of instrumentation,” said Scarbrough.
They then began making subtle changes to the room characteristics to perfect the sound quality on stage and in the audience.
Violinist Yulia Ziskel called the experience and design “incredible”, describing how orchestra members can discuss the sound before room changes are made, and five minutes later “things would be very different, suddenly a different sound. “.
“This room is so flexible that it accommodates so many different options,” said the musician, who has played with Phil for 22 seasons.
The tuning of the hall, which began in August, marks a homecoming for the philharmonic, which has been a nomadic symphony since March 2020.
The pandemic, and then the major renovation that turned their old venue into a skeleton of itself, meant that one of America’s oldest music institutions reopened season ticket season last fall in temporary homes in the others. spaces of the Lincoln Center.
Ethan Bensdorf, a trumpet player about to start his 15th season with the company, said the comeback was like “buying a new pair of jeans”.
“You are really excited about wearing the new jeans, they might feel a little stiff at first,” she said. “But the more you get used to them, the more they mold to your body.”
The public opening of the philharmonic is scheduled for 8 October and includes the performance of “San Juan Hill” by Etienne Charles. The season of subscriptions then opens on 12 October with the world premiere of “Oya” by Brazilian director Marcos Balter.
“I can’t wait to see what the audience wants to see,” said musician Bensdorf. “That’s why we perform, that’s why we’re musicians, that’s what we get from live music, that’s why live music is so magical.”
“I can’t wait to feel that energy in the room.”
md / wd
© Agence France-Presse