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New concert hall and facelift for the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra (cont'd)


The arena-like interior of the main performance hall is a bit reminiscent of the Berlin Philharmonic, but more intimate. Woodmade structures and nutbrown colours dominating the areas for seating as well the stage and create a warm atmosphere. Acoustic designer Yasuhisa Toyota has layered both performance halls with wooden poles and panels modeled by computer. The wood of the floors, walls and stage has been left unpainted and unvarnished for its sound reflecting and absorbing properties. Architect Arata Isozaki continued Toyota’s themes with an incorporation of nature, from the halls’ layouts to the subdued color scheme to the garden atriums which interrupt and illuminate the mostly underground structure, and of waves throughout the building.


The smaller concert hall is box-shaped, with a straight stand for the audience at one end, and a big empty floor space. It doubles for rehearsals and recording activities. The sound of both spaces, particularly that of the orchestral atrium, is excellent. The new building, located on Fuxing street, at a stone's throw from the city's Music Conservatory, is now probably one of the best symphony concert halls available in China. More than 100 concerts have already been performed in this new venue, a big step up for the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, which performed only 30 concerts a year in the past, in the old venues (primarily the Shanghai Oriental Art Center and Shanghai Grand Theatre).


During its first season in the new hall, the full orchestra played 35 times, and its smaller chamber orchestra and other sub-groups gave additional performances. Responses to the new venue were highly positive. Well-known conductors like Zubin Mehta, Charles Dutoit, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Krzysztof Penderecki and top visiting orchestras such as the Wiener Philharmoniker, Orchestre de Paris, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Munchener Philharmoniker and NDR Sinfonierorchester already tested the new hall, and were duly impressed. The only setback: the interior of the big hall was not entirely finished in 2014 yet, and SSO had to use the summer period of 2015 to do extra panelling and carry out some final construction work.


According to SSO's vice president Zhou Ping, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra plans to perform about one-third of all the events at the symphony hall and to organize another one-third under SSO auspices. Remaining concerts will be produced by others who rent the facility. Pianist Lang Lang served as artist in residence during the first season. The orchestra's current artistic director and principal conductor, Yu Long, also acts as leader of the China Philharmonic Orchestra in Beijing, and as artistic advisor of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra. Meanwhile, SSO also adopted a new logo to underpin the new era which this hall heralds for the orchestra: the logo consists of interlocking circles which shape up to the letters SSO.


The show time at Shanghai Symphony Hall has been moved from 19.00 PM to one hour later, in consideration of downtown traffic. With the new schedule, spectators will be able to take their time and have dinner before reaching the concert, and then still take public transport home when concerts end around 21.30 PM. For more information (in English) about the concert hall you can consult:

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