London is a Step Closer to Getting a World-Class Concert Hall

Jul 11, 2017

Good news: The London Symphony Orchestra is on track to get a new world-class concert hall.

Gramophone magazine announced yesterday that the shortlist of architects who have been asked to submit designs for London’s proposed Centre for Music has been revealed.

That list includes U.S. firms Gehry Partners LLP and Diller, Scofidio and Renfro, along with seven other architectural firms around the world.

Gehry Partner principal Frank Gehry designed the now-iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall, the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Diller, Scofidio and Renfro led the redesign of the renowned Alice Tully Hall in New York City’s Lincoln Center and designed plans for the Juilliard School’s first overseas campus, in Tianjin, China.

The panel that will evaluate the proposals includes Sir Simon Rattle, the Liverpool-born conductor who begins his appointment as music director of the London Symphony Orchestra in September 2017.

Wait a second. London is home to the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the London Classical Players, the City of London Sinfonia, the Philharmonia Orchestra and many other classical music ensembles of high repute.

Doesn’t London already have a great concert hall?

Not so much, some say.

That camp includes Rattle, who has expressed the need for the LSO, which performs at London’s Barbican Centre, to get a new home — a concert hall that would allow the full force of the orchestra’s greatness to shine.

"You have no idea how wonderful an orchestra like the London Symphony Orchestra can sound in a great concert hall. The Barbican is serviceable, but it’s like when I’ve seen so many young violinists finally be handed a great violin — it’s a whole other world," Rattle said in a February 2015 interview with the BBC (quoted in The New York Times).

After Rattle’s interview with the BBC, the British government agreed to conduct a feasibility study to test the waters for building a new concert hall in London, according to The New York Times. With designs now on the table — and despite some questions about the project's fiscal feasibility and cultural wisdom — the project has taken another step forward.