The Elbphilharmonie

Elbphilharmonie
Elbphilharmonie © Thies Rätzke

A visit to the Elbphilharmonie is a special experience for all the senses. The music, of course, takes centre stage. In the Grand Hall, this assumes a double meaning: the terraced rows of seats rise up high around the stage in a circle. This creates an extraordinary sense of proximity to the musical action, especially since Yasuhisa Toyota’s acoustics make every note ring out as clear as crystal.

As you make your way around the building, there are amazing views to discover at every turn. This is because the Elbphilharmonie – designed by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron – was built right in the middle of the river Elbe.

A shimmering wave of glass on a solid brick warehouse from the 1960s, and between them a publicly accessible viewing platform that functions as a meeting place and launch pad for discovering the rest of the building: not only the Grand Hall and the Recital Hall, but also the hotel, restaurant and souvenir shop.

The special materials used in the interior design invite you to touch and feel them, especially the acoustic wall panelling in the Grand Hall and the Recital Hall. And hands-on experience is also provided in the Elbphilharmonie »World of Instruments« in the Kaistudios, where musical instruments from around the world await to be played and discovered.

The Laeiszhalle

Laeiszhalle
Laeiszhalle © Maxim Schulz

The Laeiszhalle is a distinguished institution and a wonderful venue for early music, song recitals, chamber music and jazz.

When it first opened its doors on 4 June 1908, the Laeiszhalle was Germany’s biggest and most modern concert hall. It’s an important neo-Baroque landmark in Hamburg and a focal point of the city’s musical life.

Besides top international artists, the venue also provides a professional setting with an elegant, familiar atmosphere for Hamburg musicians – with the Symphoniker Hamburg, the Laeiszhalle’s resident orchestra, leading the way.

Cecilia Bartoli Cecilia Bartoli © Claudia Höhne
European Union Youth Orchestra European Union Youth Orchestra © Claudia Höhne
None © Thies Rätzke
Quatuor Ébène Quatuor Ébène © Claudia Höhne
Elbphilharmonie Kaistudio Elbphilharmonie Kaistudio © Claudia Höhne
Alan Gilbert Alan Gilbert © Peter Hundert
Workshop Kosmos Klang Workshop Kosmos Klang © Claudia Höhne
Martin Grubinger Martin Grubinger © Peter Hundert
Backstage Backstage © Peter Hundert
Chick Corea Chick Corea © Peter Hundert
Patricia Kopatchinskaja Patricia Kopatchinskaja © Peter Hundert
Elbphilharmonie Kleiner Saal Elbphilharmonie Kleiner Saal © Peter Hundert

Music

»There is no serious music or unserious music, just good music and bad music.«

Leonard Bernstein

The programme at the Elbphilharmonie and Laeiszhalle is all about quality, diversity and breaking down genre boundaries. Lively interpretations of classical masterpieces are just as important as the discovery of contemporary music from various cultures – performed by the world’s best artists and the resident orchestras and ensembles of the two halls: the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Ensemble Resonanz and Symphoniker Hamburg.

The great stars of jazz are a regular presence here, and they pave the way for the rising stars of the scene. The intensive »Reflektor« mini-festivals, in which exciting artists take charge of the programme and invite their favourite musical friends and colleagues to the Elbphilharmonie, are always a very special experience.

April 2022 »Breaking Waves« Light Installation
Breaking Waves (2022) by DRIFT at Elbphilharmonie Hamburg Breaking Waves (2022) by DRIFT at Elbphilharmonie Hamburg © Florian Holzherr
11 January 2022 Anniversary Concert »5 Years Of Elbphilharmonie«
Festkonzert Festkonzert © Sophie Wolter
Meute »Elbphilharmonie Sessions«
Meute Meute © Sophie Wolter
December 2021 Jordi Savall at the Laeiszhalle
Jordi Savall Jordi Savall © Daniel Dittus
February 2022 Avishai Cohen in the Elbphilharmonie Recital Hall
Avishai Cohen / Big Vicious Avishai Cohen / Big Vicious © Sophie Wolter
May 2021 Funkelkonzert XXL: Himmelblau
Himmelblau Himmelblau © Sophie Wolter
April 2022 Thomas Ospital »Innerview«
Thomas Ospital Thomas Ospital © Daniel Dittus
November 2021 »Reflector Anoushka Shankar«
Anoushka Shankar Anoushka Shankar © Daniel Dittus
11 January 2017 Grand Opening
Elbphilharmonie Grand Opening Elbphilharmonie Grand Opening © Ralph Larman

Architecture and Acoustics

The Elbphilharmonie is a total work of art comprised of breathtaking architecture, excellent acoustics and a unique location. The Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron breathed new life into the traditional brick base, placing the concert hall on top of it like a glittering crown.

The Elbphilharmonie lifts the spirit and emboldens the senses, enabling you to enjoy new experiences.

»I know that I have done my job as an acoustician well, when audiences no longer perceive the large distance to the music.« :Yasuhisa Toyota

Grand Hall

The vineyard-style architecture means that no member of the audience sits further than 30 metres from the conductor in the Grand Hall. The music literally takes centre stage.

Elbphilharmonie Großer Saal Elbphilharmonie Großer Saal © Sophie Wolter
White Skin

The Grand Hall’s wall panelling is called the »white skin«, in reference to the 10,000 plaster fibreboards that make up the surface of the walls and ceiling. It reflects the sound into every corner.

Elbphilharmonie Großer Saal Elbphilharmonie Großer Saal © Wilfried Sander
Foyers

The foyers of the Grand Hall, ranging over many floors, reflect the building’s overall architectural concept: they offer fascinating glimpses into the various levels around the concert hall as well as great views of the port and the city.

Elbphilharmonie Foyers Elbphilharmonie Foyers © Peter Hundert
Recital Hall

The Recital Hall is arranged in the classic shoebox style. The French oak panelling with the gently undulating waves reflects the sound wonderfully into every corner of the space.

Elbphilharmonie Kleiner Saal Elbphilharmonie Kleiner Saal © Daniel Dittus
Kaistudios

This is home to the Elbphilharmonie’s extensive music education programme, with concerts and workshops for all age groups. Pop and jazz concerts are also held in Kaistudio 1.

Elbphilharmonie Kaistudio Elbphilharmonie Kaistudio © Peter Hundert
The Architects

The Elbphilharmonie as we see it today is the work of architects Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron and Ascan Mergenthaler. Their studio also designed Tate Modern in London, the Allianz Arena in Munich and the Olympic Stadium in Beijing.

Jacques Herzog / Pierre de Meuron / Ascan Mergenthaler Jacques Herzog / Pierre de Meuron / Ascan Mergenthaler © Maxim Schulz
Tube

The »Tube« is one of the Elbphilharmonie’s architectural highlights: from the main entrance, the 82-meter curved escalator leads up through the old warehouse.

Tube Tube © Oliver Heissner
Plaza

Visitors can enjoy a unique 360° panorama over the port and the city from a height of 37 meters. Whether you’re a Hamburg local or a tourist, a concertgoer or hotel guest, the viewing platform is perfect for a stroll with a view.

Plaza Plaza © Maxim Schulz
Acoustics

Yasuhisa Toyota is one of the world’s most renowned acousticians. Besides the Elbphilharmonie, he was also responsible for Suntory Hall in Tokyo and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

Mehr über die Akustik in der Mediathek
Yasuhisa Toyota Yasuhisa Toyota © Michael Zapf
Glass Facade

Curved and printed facade elements transform the Elbphilharmonie into an enormous crystal that reflects the lights and colours of the sky, the water and the city.

Elbphilharmonie Hamburg Elbphilharmonie Hamburg © Thies Rätzke
Roof

The Elbphilharmonie’s roof structure gets its unique elegant lines from eight large, curved surfaces. 6,000 shimmering sequins fitted on the roof produce impressive light reflections.

Dach der Elbphilharmonie Dach der Elbphilharmonie © Michael Kohls

Architecture and music – inseparable in the Elbphilharmonie

An organ for everyone

The Grand Hall organ honours the idea of the Elbphilharmonie as a »concert hall for everyone«: rather than towering high up and out of reach, it is built into and around the terraced rows of seats, and is elegantly integrated into the architecture. Feeling and touching are expressly allowed! The surface of the pipes is coated with a custom-made protective layer to ensure they remain in optimal condition.

The sound of an organ is produced by the air flowing through the pipes. From the organ console, the organist can »pull out« individual stops to switch ranks on or off, producing different timbres. When playing, the organist can choose from several manuals – i.e. keyboards – and sets of pedals, which are played using the feet.

The Elbphilharmonie organ was built by the renowned Bonn-based organ building company Klais, and has 69 stops. There are also four registers integrated into the reflector above the stage.

In addition to the mechanical console located directly in front of the instrument, the Elbphilharmonie’s organ can also be played from a mobile console that is pushed onto the stage for concerts.

The Elbphilharmonie organ is made up of almost 5,000 pipes, varying in length from 11 millimetres to more than 10 metres. Most of the pipes are made of tin: around 400 of them are made of wood, some of which is more than 180 years old, guaranteeing outstanding, long-lasting quality.

From »cutting, smoky« to »bell-like, iridescent«: the tones of the Elbphilharmonie organ are manifold and create a warm sound that fills the Grand Hall. This organ is optimised for music from the 19th century onwards and for the requirements of contemporary music. The Elbphilharmonie’s titular organist is the Latvian star organist Iveta Apkalna.

Organ
Organ © Claudia Höhne

One organ – many divisions

© bloomimages

A new landmark emerges :Milestones in the Elbphilharmonie’s history

1875 Kaiserspeicher

With 19,000 square metres of storage space, the »Kaiserspeicher« at the tip of »Kaiserhöft« is the largest warehouse in the port.

Harbour Harbour © Ellert & Richter Verlag
1966 Cocoa, Tobacco, Tea

The City of Hamburg takes the decision to blow up the ruins of the badly damaged Kaiserspeicher. A new warehouse is erected on the site. Like its predecessor, the new Kaispeicher A is geared to storing goods such as cocoa, tobacco and tea.

Kaispeicher (1967) Kaispeicher (1967) © Zoch
2003 On the Drawing Board

The warehouse has been standing empty since the 1990s. In 2003, Hamburg project developer Alexander Gérard commissions architects Herzog & de Meuron to design a new concert hall on top of the old Kaispeicher. On 2 April 2007, the foundation stone is laid.

Drawing Drawing © Herzog & De Meuron
2008 Creating Space for Something New

The preparations for gutting the Kaispeicher A begin. The 1,111 existing piles anchor the Kaispeicher A in the river Elbe. The foundation of the Elbphilharmonie is cast.

Entkernung (2007) Entkernung (2007) © Oliver Heissner
2010 Aiming High

Out of the gutted Kaispeicher A, the Elbphilharmonie grows a further 17 floors. In 2010, the last level is added: the 25th floor. The installation of the innovative glass facade begins on the ninth floor.

Kaispeicher (2010) Kaispeicher (2010) © Oliver Heissner
2013 Major Advances

In 2013, after months of building freeze, the Elbphilharmonie partners sign a reassignment agreement. From this point on, the internal construction makes advances: the first panels of the »white skin« are installed in the Grand Hall.

Weiße Haut Weiße Haut © Gilda Fernández-Wiencken
2014 The Last Piece of the Puzzle

On 31 January 2014, five fitters attach the last of the 1,100 glass elements to the edge of the rolling rooftop. This concludes the construction of the facade, and the exterior of the Elbphilharmonie is now complete.

Facade (2009) Facade (2009) © Yvonne Ehnert
2016 Plaza

The Plaza opens to the public on 4 November 2016, two months ahead of the Grand Opening of the concert hall. The Plaza’s extensive deck creates a new public space for Hamburg.

Plaza Plaza © Oliver Heissner
2017 Grand Opening

The inauguration of the Elbphilharmonie is celebrated on 11 January 2017. This momentous event is attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and numerous other guests from the worlds of culture and politics.

New York Philharmonic New York Philharmonic © Chris Lee