Berlin Philharmonie

Music and people first

The Philharmonie has been the musical heart of Berlin for more than 50 years. Still at the periphery of West Berlin when it 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. “One person opposite another, arranged in circles in sweeping, suspended arcs around soaring crystal pyramids.” In 1920 the architect Hans Scharoun wrote these words as a vision for the ideal theatre space. Thirty-five years later, he developed the main concert hall of the Philharmonie from this idea, with the concert platform and the musicians forming the central focal point.

Since the opening concert under the direction of Herbert von Karajan, the Berliner Philharmoniker have presented many magnificent concerts to its audiences together with great conductors and soloists. The orchestra and its chief conductor Sir Simon Rattle were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the house in October 2013 with three very different concert events that impressively demonstrate the specific acoustic possibilities of the Philharmonie: the St Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach with its double choir in the production by Peter Sellars, the gala concert on 20 October with the theme of “spatial sounds”, and Arnold Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder.

Our special page invites you to delve into the history, architecture and acoustics of this fascinating building: there are contributions from our various anniversary publications and a video with cellist Rudolf Weinheimer, who talks about his memories of opening of the Philharmonie.