Birmingham's Symphony Hall celebrates 21 years
by Tom Service | The Observer | January 12, 2012
The country's best, big acoustic for orchestral music? A straw poll of punters, musicians, soloists, and conductors would surely put Birmingham's Symphony Hall at the top. All right, there's no scientific statistical data to back that up, but it's true; well, at least, it's what I think! The point is, if you live in Birmingham, you're lucky, because you've got a hall that shames any other big hall in the country. And this year - starting this week - Symphony Hall celebrates its musical majority, reaching the venerable old age of 21.
I remember when it opened, when Simon Rattle, the presiding inspiration and guiding genius of the project consecrated it with a concert of Turnage and his favourite symphony of symphonies, Mahler's Second, broadcast live on TV, complete with Simon's apprently polka-dotted cummerbund. Through the past-made-present of the internet, you can re-live the final moments of that night in 1991 here but Birmingham celebrates Symphony Hall with its 21st Anniversary Festival from now until June.
Naturally, there are concerts from the CBSO and their current maestro, Andris Nelsons, and the now knighted Sir Simon will also make an appearance with the Vienna Philharmonic, but it all started last night with a visit from the Royal Opera House with a concert performance of Wagner's Die Meistersinger with Antonio Pappano. That's the first of four Wagner operas Symphony hall will host, including Parsifal from Gergiev and the Mariinsky, Die Walküre from Opera North, and Nelsons conducting Tristan und Isolde with his house band. All that, and a royal command performance of Elgar's The Music Makers, comedy from Billy Connolly, jazz from Wynton Marsalis, baroque-orchestral serial-killing melodrama from John Malkovich in The Infernal Comedy, Phil Minton's Feral Choir and a Mobile Sinfonia. The orchestral concerts are the thing, though. If you haven't heard Symphony Hall in the flesh, 2012's the time to do it - and it'll be cheaper, and more musically fulfilling, than a trip to space, after Birmingham bested the cosmos in the New York Times's list of 100 places to see this year...
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